Berlin Ramstein US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warns the western allies not to let up in their support for Ukraine now. “This is not the moment to sit back,” Austin said at the start of a meeting of the so-called Ukraine contact group at the US base in Ramstein on Friday.
Rather, it is time to step up military aid, Austin said, speaking of a pivotal moment for Ukraine. The focus of the consultations of the approximately 50 countries is the question of whether Western-style main battle tanks should now also be delivered to Ukraine for the first time, above all it is about the Leopard 2 made in Germany.
At the beginning of the meeting of defense ministers, which was also attended by the new German head of department, Boris Pistorius, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the contact group directly in a video message for the first time.
He called on the supporting states to continue supplying weapons, including battle tanks. “We have to act quickly,” said Selenski. “The Kremlin has to lose.” Zelensky thanked the assembled representatives of Western countries for their support to date. “We are seeing the results on the battlefield in Ukraine.”
Top jobs of the day
Find the best jobs now and
be notified by email.
But the defenders of freedom were slowly running out of weapons. In Ramstein, concrete decisions would have to be made about the delivery of aircraft, missiles and long-range artillery, for example, in order to be able to end Russian terror.
Federal government covered in the tank question
Austin pointed to a new $2.5 billion US aid package for Ukraine’s armed forces, which includes the delivery of 59 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. US aid to Ukraine totaled $26.7 billion, Austin said.
>> Read here: German industry offers more than 100 main battle tanks for Ukraine
In the question of the Leopard main battle tanks, the federal government is keeping a low profile. On the one hand, there is the question of whether Germany will deliver the device directly to Ukraine and, on the other hand, whether the federal government will allow partner countries to pass on the battle tank to Ukraine.
Poland and Finland in particular have declared their willingness to do so. According to media reports, Chancellor Olaf Scholz only wants to deliver the Leopards if the US government then also provides Abrams main battle tanks. So far, the US government has not been willing to do this.
On Thursday evening, however, Pistorius rejected the statement that the federal government had stipulated this condition. “I don’t know of such a connection,” said the SPD politician on ARD. Also Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit emphasized on Friday that there was “at no time” a connection.
However, the federal government is sticking to the fact that there is “close international coordination” for all arms deliveries, especially with the USA. At the same time, he dampened expectations that Defense Minister Pistorius could announce tank deliveries at the Ramstein conference. Although Ramstein is an important “marker”, there is also a continuous coordination process beyond that.
Poland had announced that it wanted to deliver Leopard 2 tanks from its own army stocks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition – if necessary without waiting for the necessary approval from the federal government.
>> Read here: “Pretty certain” that a decision on the Leopard question will be made soon – the USA are supplying Ukraine with around 150 armored personnel carriers
Hebestreit explained that he had no information that the Polish government had already submitted an application for the tanks to be transferred. And he assumes that the government in Warsaw also values rule-based dealings with one another.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs declined to comment on Friday whether there are already applications from the industry to supply tanks to Ukraine. The Handelsblatt had reported that the Rheinmetall group could deliver a good 100 main battle tanks within 20 months. The spokeswoman said only that the government is in close contact with the industry and is examining all procurement options.
More: Boris Pistorius has no time to settle in on the first day in office