Now it is supposed to happen quickly with the delivery of 14 Leopard 2 tanks from the German armed forces to the Ukraine as part of a European Leopard consortium. Germany wants to give the Ukrainian army the second most modern type A6, Poland apparently the Leopard 2 A4. “They are now being assembled with ammunition and material packages and, according to reports, will be delivered from the end of March,” Göran Swistek from the Berlin Science and Politics Foundation (SWP) told DW. The think tank also advises the German government and parliament.
It will take much more time for the German army to replace the Leopard tanks it has given up, according to SWP researcher Swistek, who has the rank of frigate captain in the German Navy. “The gap that then arises to fill these stocks is quite a large one, which I believe can last at least a year.” However, the federal government would first have to order supplies from industry.
So far no Leopard 2 back order from the industry
The Leopard 2 is jointly produced in Germany by the two armorers Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall. When asked by DW, the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall group declined to comment. According to SWP security expert Swistek, “from a wide range of sectors, including the German armaments industry,” he said, “there have been no purchase inquiries or written applications” from the German government. “Getting an equivalent model now or a similar model that has been revised out of the economic cycle or a completely new model: we’re talking about a much longer period of time.”
Frigate Commander Göran Swistek works as a security expert at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin
Even more: According to German media reports, the Ministry of Defense has not yet ordered any weapons as part of the 100 billion euro special package for the Bundeswehr, which Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced shortly after the start of the Russian invasion, almost a year ago, on February 24, in announced in his speech on the “turning point in time”. “Apparently because these decisions about the subsequent purchase have not yet been made,” says the SWP specialist, referring to the Leopard 2.
According to an inventory list by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Bundeswehr has 223 Leopard 2 tanks of the similar A5 and A6 series. In order for Western tank aid to make a difference to Ukraine in its defensive struggle against the Russian invaders, the attacked country needs at least 100 Western tanks, according to the IISS. This corresponds to the equipment of three tank battalions of the Ukrainian army. In addition to Germany and Poland, several European countries have signaled a delivery after the German government’s decision to deliver battle tanks. Finally, Norway, which according to the IISS list should only have 36 Leopard 2 A4s.
Leopard training for Ukrainians already started
However, training programs for Ukrainian tank crews apparently existed even before the decision to supply Leopards was made. So now everything could actually happen very quickly – with the western tanks in Ukraine. However, the Ukrainian army will have to wait longer for the 31 Abrams main battle tanks promised by the USA. Last Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak again arranged to meet with US President Joe Biden to discuss further details of the Ukraine aid.
Shortly before, the White House had dampened journalists’ expectations that the USA would also quickly send its Abrams to Ukraine. The Pentagon does not want to deliver the Abrams for Kyiv from US Army stocks, but rather to order them from industry. And that can take time: possibly more than ten months.
Ukraine now needs the Leopard 2 all the more urgently, Ukrainian military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko told DW. The Ukrainian army lost a lot of tanks in the fight against the Russian invaders, the exact number is kept secret in Kyiv.
With quality against the Russian quantity
Russia has also lost many tanks, but can send more equipment to the Ukrainian front from an almost inexhaustible supply. “We cannot rule the battlefield through quantity, but through quality,” says Kovalenko. If things go quickly – with the tank deliveries, but also with the military planning for the coming weeks.
US General Mark Milley recently said on the sidelines of the donor conference of the Ukraine contact group at the US Base in Ramstein, Germany. This much seems certain: the time pressure for the Ukrainian defenders is enormous. Most Western experts agree that Russia is preparing for a new major offensive in Ukraine.