No other weapon system has recently been discussed as much in Germany as the domestically produced Leopard 2. For a long time, the federal government hesitated to deliver the main battle tank to Ukraine or to authorize such a delivery to other countries. The fear of being considered a party to the war was too great, which Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in particular always wanted to avoid. But the pressure on the government has been increasing lately, and now it has decided to make the battle tanks available to Ukraine. In return, the United States will also send Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
Initially 14 tanks by the end of March
As a first step, Germany wants to support Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks from Bundeswehr stocks. In total, Germany itself has 328 Leopard main battle tanks, but experts disagree on how many of them could be used immediately.
Around the world, around 20 countries have a total of around 3,600 leopards. The new Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) said on a visit to troops in Saxony-Anhalt on Thursday that Ukraine would receive the first delivery “by the end of the first quarter”. For all he knows, this is timely to strengthen Ukraine ahead of an expected spring Russian offensive. “I have no indication that they will be late,” said Pistorius
Western States Objective: Two Leopard battalions for Ukraine
The aim of the Western states, it is said, is to hand over enough Leopards for two tank battalions to Ukraine as quickly as possible. In the Bundeswehr, a battle tank battalion includes 44 Leopards. For this, other European partners would have to provide tanks. The federal government now wants to issue permits for tank deliveries from other countries. Such a reservation of approval is customary internationally for arms deals and is stipulated in the contracts.
“Far superior to the Russian models”: The CDU defense expert Roderich Kiesewetter welcomes the tank deliveries
The reaction from Moscow shows the importance of the Leopard tanks. The delivery of the Leopard tank and other weapon systems
called Moscow a “direct involvement” in the conflict. Exactly the reading that Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) always wanted to avoid. In the meantime, CDU defense expert Roderich Kiesewetter welcomed the government’s decision in an interview with DW: “Western models protect the soldiers much better and thus increase combat morale. They are also technically far superior to the Soviet models. This means that large-scale operations can be realistic again. This can free larger areas from Russian occupation and prevent war crimes.”
Military expert hopes for clear improvement
For military expert Marina Miron from London’s King’s College, however, it remains to be seen what exactly the value of the Leopard tanks is for Ukraine. She told DW: “We don’t yet know which versions of the Leopard tanks Ukraine will actually get, but of course there is great hope that they will be a clear improvement on what Ukraine currently has.”
The planned delivery to the Ukraine is about 90 tanks. Finland, which is not yet a NATO member, has also announced that it can also supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine. And there, in the war zone, quite a few military experts are hoping for a decisive turnaround in the war with Russia, especially with the recapture of areas in the east of the country.
An export hit
The Leopard 2 and its predecessor, the Leopard 1, are Germany’s military export hits. The Leopard 2 main battle tank has been in series production since 1978 and has been improved many times since then.
“Delivery possible until the end of March”: Defense Minister Boris Pistorius on Thursday in Möckern in Saxony-Anhalt
Due to the great export success of the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann tank, there are many different versions, each of which has been adapted to the special requirements of the buyer. The predecessor model Leopard 1 was also sold very often and is still in service in many armies around the world. Its purpose is to defend against enemy armored formations.
60 tons heavy, more than 60 kilometers per hour fast
The Leopard 2 has a 120 mm cannon, with which it can attack stationary or moving targets while driving. With additional equipment, the tank can cross waters up to four meters deep. The 1500 HP strong and more than 60 km/h fast tank is a heavyweight. Its more than 60 tons are always a problem for bridges. According to the Canadian and Danish soldiers involved, the Leopard has proven its worth in operations in Afghanistan, above all because of its high level of protection against attacks.
Nils Schmid: “Ukraine can force negotiations this way”
The leopard and its delivery to the attacked Ukraine – for many German politicians this could be a turning point in the war. SPD defense expert Nils Schmid told DW: “We are convinced that this spring delivery will represent a decisive advantage for Ukraine. Because the combat effectiveness of the tank is high, significantly higher than that of all weapons,
that we have delivered so far. Along with strengthening air defenses, this will allow Ukraine to tip the military balance in its favor – and thus force Russian President Putin into serious negotiations on regaining Ukrainian territorial integrity.”
Tight majority in Germany for the delivery
The majority of the population in Germany also agrees that the government has decided to deliver the main battle tank. A survey by the opinion research institute Forsa showed on Thursday that around 53 percent of those questioned agreed to the delivery. However, 39 percent still think they are wrong. Skepticism is particularly high in the east of the country, in the five federal states that used to form the GDR: 59 percent of those surveyed there believe that this increases the risk of a direct military reaction by Russia against Germany.