Berlin Poland has put the federal government under pressure with an application for the delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine. “The Germans received our request for the export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine,” Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter. He appealed to the German side to join the state coalition that wants to support Kyiv with Leopard 2 main battle tanks. “It’s about the security of all of Europe.”
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki immediately increased the pressure: “I hope that the answer from Germany will come quickly, because the Germans hesitate, evade and act in a way that is difficult to understand,” said Morawiecki at a press conference. “We can see that they don’t want to help Ukraine defend itself on a broader scale.”
The federal government wants to decide quickly on the Polish application. “We will treat the procedure with the necessary urgency,” said a government spokesman. Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) also expects clarity soon. “I expect that a decision will be made shortly,” he said at a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.
The application from Poland first ends up at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, where an initial decision is made. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has already spoken out in favor of an export, but the decision is still open. If he agrees, then the final word rests with the Security Council, which is chaired by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
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The State Secretary in the Foreign Office, Tobias Lindner, defended Berlin’s position. After the United States and Great Britain, the federal government is Ukraine’s biggest supporter, he said on Tuesday in Berlin at the Handelsblatt conference “Security and Defense”. “It is in our own interest that Russia fails on the battlefield and politically.” The decision on export approval ultimately lies with the Chancellery.
Scholz also has the decision as to whether Germany will also deliver its own battle tanks to Kyiv. The inspector of the army, Alfons Mais, dampened expectations that the Bundeswehr could hand over battle tanks. This would “hurt” the troops, he said at the conference. “At some point there comes a point where we can no longer carry out our orders.” He is referring to the ability to defend one’s own country and fulfill NATO obligations.
>> Read here: Why Scholz hesitates on the tank question
Mais emphasized that it is no longer just a question of reducing the Leopard fleet, but of its overall operational capability. According to him, if these main battle tanks are used in the Ukraine, spare parts and ammunition will be needed, which would then be missing for the operation of the vehicles remaining with the troops. “The pain of levy is high, the chronic pain then comes down the timeline.”
Alternatively, there is an option to export Leopard 2 from industrial stocks. “We have 29 Leopard 2 almost ready. We could hand them over to Ukraine in March or April,” said Rheinmetall boss Armin Papperger on the sidelines of the Handelsblatt conference. “The decision lies with the Federal Chancellor.”
Rheinmetall refurbished the used tanks on behalf of the federal government, they are intended for export to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Leopard 2 could be diverted to Ukraine, with deliveries to both countries being made up for later.
>> Read here: From air defense to training – these factors will decide the outcome of the Ukraine war
Papperger announced that he wanted to work on more main battle tanks. He has started talks with user countries to take over possible stocks. Around 1,000 A4 Leopard 2s were delivered worldwide. From the point of view of experts, this model could become a standard for deliveries to the Ukraine, since it exists and a uniform system would therefore be available. This would simplify maintenance and the supply of spare parts.
Like other speakers, State Secretary Lindner warned against narrowing the debate to battle tanks. It is also about strengthening one’s own defense capacity. “We have to set up the Bundeswehr in such a way that it can defend the alliance,” said the Greens politician. Ultimately, it is about NATO being able to provide credible deterrence. To do this, Germany and its allies would have to invest in their armed forces.
In order to equip the Bundeswehr for this task, the federal government has created a special fund of 100 billion euros. What is certain is that the money will be used to order the F-35 combat aircraft and a heavy transport helicopter in the USA. German manufacturers, as Renk boss Susanne Wiegand complained, have been waiting for orders so far. Things are progressing slowly, said Rheinmetall boss Papperger. “In 2023 we really have to start the turning point.”
Meanwhile, Poland is not only expecting support from Germany. The Prime Minister announced that he would seek compensation from the EU for the cost of Leopard shipments. “We will apply to the European Union for a refund. It will be another test of goodwill,” Morawiecki said.
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