Berlin, Ramstein The federal government has not yet made a decision about supplying Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine or approving supplies from other countries. However, the new Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) gave his ministry an order to check how many Leopard 1 and 2 tanks were available from the Bundeswehr and industrial stocks.
“We are preparing for the worst-case scenario,” said Pistorius on the sidelines of the meeting of the so-called Ukraine contact group. Defense ministers from around 50 countries discussed further support services for the country attacked by Russia at the US air base in Ramstein on Friday.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said after the meeting that there was no news about the possible delivery of main battle tanks. He referred to the statements made by his German counterpart. At the same time, he called Germany a “reliable ally” who had already done a lot to support Ukraine. When asked if Germany was living up to its leadership role in Europe given the tank hesitancy, Austin said, “Yes, but we can all do more.”
The meeting was linked to high expectations that the allies would take another qualitative step in supplying arms to Ukraine and also provide battle tanks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who first addressed the contact group via video link, urged urgency. “We must act quickly,” he said. “The Kremlin must lose.”
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Countries such as Great Britain, Poland and Finland have declared their intention to supply Challenger and Leopard main battle tanks. Since the Leopard tanks come from German production, the federal government would have to agree to a transfer. The government in Warsaw had made it clear that, if necessary, they would also deliver without waiting for the necessary approval from Berlin.
According to Pistorius, however, there is “no unanimous opinion” among the countries supporting Ukraine on the battle tank issue. The impression that there is a closed coalition and that only Germany is standing in the way of deliveries of main battle tanks is wrong, said Pistorius, who only took over the post of defense minister on Thursday. “There are good reasons for delivery and there are good reasons against.”
At the opening of the Ramstein meeting, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced new US arms sales worth $2.5 billion. However, no main battle tanks are included in the package.
Two days ago, various media reported that Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) only wanted to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine if the US government provided Abrams main battle tanks. So far, the US government has not been willing to do this.
Defense Minister Pistorius had already rejected the statement that the federal government had this condition on Thursday evening. “I don’t know of such a connection,” he said 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.
Austin also denied that there was a connection between possible German and American tank deliveries.
Read here: “Pretty sure” that decision on Leopard issue will be made soon – The US will deliver around 150 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine
Urging the Poles, who want to hand over 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Hebestreit said he had no information that the government in Warsaw had already submitted an application for the tanks to be transferred. And he assumes that Poland also values rule-based dealings with one another: “All of our partners certainly want to behave in accordance with the law,” he said of the possibility of passing on Leopard tanks without the required German permit. According to Pistorius, the issue of export permits was discussed in Ramstein but not yet decided.
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 only said that the government is in close contact with the industry and is examining all procurement options.
The Bundeswehr only has a good 300 Leopard 2s left and cannot give away many of them without jeopardizing the ability to defend the country and the alliance. Pistorius said his ministry would now check the number of Leopard 1 and 2 and in what condition the Bundeswehr and industry had them. It is also important that eligible tanks must be compatible with vehicles that other nations may be able to supply. The Leopard 2 is available in various different versions.
>> Read here: German industry offers more than 100 main battle tanks for Ukraine
US Secretary of Defense Austin warned the Western Allies in Ramstein not to let up in their support for Ukraine: “This is not the moment to sit back.” Rather, it is time to step up military aid, said Austin, speaking of a crucial one Moment for Ukraine.
US calls for more support for Ukraine: “We have to step it up”
Ukrainian President Zelensky thanked the assembled representatives of Western countries for their support to date. “We are seeing the results on the battlefield in Ukraine.” 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.
Austin highlighted the new US aid package to Ukraine’s armed forces, which includes the delivery of 59 Bradley and 90 Stryker infantry fighting vehicles. US aid to Ukraine totaled $26.7 billion, Austin said. He also thanked countries that provided air defense systems, artillery or armored personnel carriers. The alliance is closed.
Federal Defense Minister Pistorius emphasized that support for the Allies must be geared to the specific needs of Ukraine. Air defense continues to be a priority. Germany will provide another Iris-T defense system and seven more Gepard anti-aircraft vehicles in February.
In addition, the German government announced at the beginning of the month that it would deliver up to 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles. Overall, the German “spring package” is worth around one billion euros, said Pistorius. Since the beginning of the war, the Federal Republic has supported Ukraine with weapons totaling 3.3 billion euros.
With agency material.
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