The German government has confirmed this Wednesday that it will send Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, in a turn from its previous position that may lead to a qualitative advantage on the battlefield for the kyiv army. Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz has announced his decision to strengthen the capacity of the Ukrainian armed forces with these tanks to members of his Cabinet during the weekly Council of Ministers, his spokeswoman has reported. The confirmation comes after the weekly Der Spiegel, First, and later other German media, confirmed on Tuesday that Scholz had changed his mind after weeks of international pressure on Germany to allow the shipment of German-made Leopard tanks.
The chancellor appears this Wednesday in Parliament to explain the reasons. Scholz has assured that Germany “has always been in the front line in supporting Ukraine” and that it has always made decisions in “close coordination with international allies”, as has happened now with the Leopard 2. The chancellor has acknowledged that there may be German citizens who are scared by this step, but he has asked them to “trust” him. “We must prevent the war in Ukraine from becoming a war between Russia and NATO,” he pointed out, and has assured that his government will always respect that principle.
“No one can know exactly what the right and wrong decisions are, and so we have been cautious, bit by bit. We will continue to do so in the future. It is the only principle that guarantees the security of Europe and Germany in such a dangerous matter ”, Scholz added in his intervention before the Bundestag deputies. The chancellor has assured that the caution that he has shown these weeks had “every intention” and has appreciated that Germany has not given in to pressure until it has weighed the pros and cons of the decision.
Berlin will provide “training, logistics, ammunition and maintenance of the equipment”, Scholz has listed, and will allow the allies to send their own Leopard 2. “It is the right thing to do. We are talking about very effective weapons systems and the right thing is that we never provide them alone, but in close cooperation ”, he insisted.
14 tanks now; two medium-term battalions
The German Ministry of Defense is reviewing which combat-capable units it counts for shipping. The objective is to “quickly” assemble two battalions —depending on the armies, a battalion consists of two to six companies—, specifies the information from the Foreign Ministry, but in a first step, Berlin will provide the Ukrainian armed forces with a company of 14 tanks. Leopard 2 of the A6 model, one of the most advanced. These armored vehicles come from the stocks of the Bundeswehr, the German Army. The spokesman stresses that “other European partners will deliver their Leopard 2 tanks.”
The shipment of tanks is “the result of intensive consultations that have taken place with Germany’s closest European and international partners,” said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit. “This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability. We are acting closely coordinated internationally, ”the foreign minister announced to his ministers. Scholz had always emphasized that he did not want to “go it alone” on this issue and that he would only supply tanks alongside other nations, especially the United States.
The training of Ukrainian troops in handling these powerful and agile tanks will also start “quickly”. This was indicated by the German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, on Tuesday after his meeting with the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, when he said that Germany was already promoting the training of Ukrainian soldiers to learn how to use the Leopard, although Berlin had not yet made the decision to send them. In addition to training the soldiers, the German aid package will also include logistics, ammunition and systems maintenance.
Berlin also confirms that it will give immediate authorization to countries that want to quickly deliver Leopard 2 tanks from their own stocks to Ukraine. Poland, the partner that had most pressured the Scholz Executive, made the request formally on Tuesday morning. As the tanks are German-made, an express authorization is necessary to be able to re-export them to third countries.
The change of opinion in Berlin represents a turn in the position of caution and reflection that Scholz had maintained until now, despite pressure from several of his allies, especially Poland. The German movement comes accompanied by the future shipment of American Abrams battle tanks – which was also known on Tuesday -, claimed by Berlin as a condition for agreeing to send the Leopard 2.
Armies of 15 European countries have in their arsenals a total of 2,405 units of the German Leopard 2 tank, of different models and upgrades. According to figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) analysis center, Germany has 521. Sending battle tanks and training are not enough to ensure their operability. The coalition of allies will have to ensure that they have adequate logistical support and the necessary spare parts and ideally their compatibility.
Russia: “New level of confrontation”
The Russian embassy in Germany has responded to the Berlin announcement: “This extremely dangerous decision brings the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts the statements of German politicians that the federal republic does not want to get involved in it,” it says in a statement. release. The embassy claims that Germany and its allies “are not interested in a diplomatic solution” but are determined to “escalate” the conflict by providing kyiv with “unlimited more and more lethal weapons.”
Russia, through its representative in Berlin, accuses Germany of refusing to “acknowledge its historical responsibility” for the “terrible crimes of Nazism” and of forgetting “the difficult path of post-war reconciliation between Russians and Germans.” The embassy speaks of sending German tanks to the “Eastern Front” and that this will cause the death “not only of Russian soldiers but also of civilians.”
The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Oleksi Makeiev, has welcomed the formation of a “great coalition of tanks.” “They will help us repel the Russian offensive and liberate our territories occupied by Russia and the population,” he said during a visit to Hamburg, in statements collected by the German agency DPA. “We need everything and we are grateful for all kinds of help,” added Makeiev, who stressed that the Ukrainian army and military “have shown that they can handle different equipment.” “I assume we will talk about more weapons systems,” he said, indicating that Ukraine will make new demands for weapons.
Germany’s decision opens the way for other countries such as Poland, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain and Norway to supply their own Leopard 2s until the necessary number is reached -300 according to the Ukrainian authorities- to recover positions taken by the Russian Army and repel the attack. large-scale attack that, according to NATO, prepares Moscow for spring. Finland will join the group of states that will provide tanks, its Defense Minister Mikko Savola has assured. “International cooperation for the delivery of Leopard to Ukraine is progressing and Finland will participate in it,” he said on Wednesday.
The German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, has assured that he is glad that Germany has made the decision – “it is the right one, it is a historic decision” – but that it is not a reason for reactions with cries of joy. “A decision of this type is never pleasant,” he explained. The Minister of Economy, the green Robert Habeck, has also referred to the Leopard during the presentation of the economic perspectives for 2023. “It is the right decision, but these tanks will kill people,” he lamented.
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