Official Berlin wants to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Official: Berlin wants to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit announced on Wednesday that the 14 tanks would be delivered “in a first step” from Bundeswehr stockpiles. The objective is to quickly assemble two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks. For their part, European partners would supply tanks for this purpose. Berlin will issue the appropriate permits for this.

A German main battle tank battalion normally includes 44 Leopard 2 tanks. The delivery to Ukraine is therefore around 90 tanks. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to address the issue in the Bundestag early Wednesday afternoon.

tank diplomacy

Scholz was under a lot of pressure because he had postponed a decision. He also emphasized that he only wanted to supply tanks in line with the US. Washington initially rejected this link, the US Department of Defense had referred to a high maintenance requirement and special drive, which is why it made no sense to send US-type Abrams tanks.

An intense debate has apparently ensued since a summit at the US base in Ramstein, Germany, last week, and now the US is ready to supply around 30 Abrams tanks, according to sources. A corresponding announcement from US President Joe Biden was expected soon, if not on Wednesday.

Graphics for the Leopard 2 A4 main battle tank

Graphics: APA/; Source: dpa

Beware of additional escalation

Named after American General Creighton Abrams, the American tank was developed in the 1970s and entered service in the 1980s. Like the Leopard 2, it dates back to a failed German-American project to develop a joint main battle tank in the 1980s. 1960. The latest version of the Abrams, produced by the General Dynamics armament company, is considered one of the most modern tanks in the world.

Until now, Germany and the United States have been reluctant to supply heavy tanks, fearing that support could give the Kremlin reason to escalate the conflict. Scholz stressed that a conflict between Russia and NATO must be avoided.

Ukraine wants more

Even before official confirmation from Berlin, the Ukrainian government hailed the plans as a possible turning point in the war. But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saw the need far greater. “It’s not about five, ten or 15 tanks. The need is greater.” Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andriy Melnyk immediately demanded that Germany supply Tornado and Eurofighter fighters, warships and submarines.

Poland is in the starting blocks

On Tuesday, Poland applied in Berlin for an export license for 14 examples of the German tank type. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki thanked Scholz on Wednesday for his planned support. “The decision to supply Ukraine with Leopard main battle tanks is a big step towards stopping Russia. We are stronger together,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

There are other countries in Europe that have Leopard tanks. Some made their own decision dependent on how Germany would decide. The Norwegian government is considering sending some Leopard 2 tanks, Aftenposten and Dagens Naeringsliv newspapers reported.

A week and a half ago, Great Britain announced that it would deliver 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks to the Ukrainian army. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also welcomed Germany’s decision.

angry russia

Moscow was angry. US tanks in Ukraine are “another blatant provocation,” Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov told Telegram. “If the United States decides to supply tanks, then you definitely cannot justify such a move on the grounds of ‘defensive weapons’.”

M1A1 Abrams main battle tank graphic

Graphics: APA/ORF; Source: dpa

At a news conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Abrams’ potential deliveries were a waste of money. “I’m sure many experts understand the absurdity of this idea. The plan is technically disastrous,” Peskow said. “But above all, the potential that tanks represent for the Ukrainian army is overestimated. These tanks burn like any other.

It may take months or years

The front, which stretches more than 1,000 kilometers across eastern and southern Ukraine, has been virtually frozen over for two months, with heavy casualties on both sides. However, both Russia and Ukraine are suspected of planning new offensives. Zelenskyi said in his speech that Russia is stepping up its pressure on Bakhmut, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine.

However, it is doubtful that the West’s main battle tanks will arrive in time. According to The Washington Post, it could be months, if not years, before Abrams’ tanks see action in the war. The vehicles are unlikely to reach Ukraine in the spring when Russia’s offensive is expected, the newspaper said.