Germany And U.S. Will Send Battle Tanks To Ukraine In Major Policy Reversal

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Topline

Germany will supply Ukraine with heavy battle tanks and greenlight plans for its allies to do the same, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Wednesday, while the U.S. will provide Abrams tanks of its own—u-turning after months of international pressure and marking a major boost of Western military aid to Kyiv.

Key Facts

Germany will send Ukraine a total of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from stocks held by its army, the Bundeswehr, Scholz announced on Wednesday.

The decision was made in close consultation with ally countries, Scholz said, adding that the aim is to quickly establish two tank battalions in Ukraine.

Germany will train Ukrainian troops to use the tanks and provide a supply package including logistics, ammunition and system maintenance.

The U.S. will also send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden announced in a press conference on Wednesday, in a policy reversal after months of demurring.

The German government will also approve requests for other countries wanting to send Ukraine their own Leopard 2 tanks.

This removes a major obstacle for would-be donors as Germany, which makes the Leopard 2 and supplies them under export licenses, has been reluctant to authorize shipments to Ukraine and holds a veto over resale or re-export.

Spain, Poland and Norway are all reportedly planning to send Kyiv some of their Leopard 2 tanks.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin wrongly expected the West’s commitment to Ukraine to “waver with time,” adding that the shipment of tanks is meant to help Ukraine “defend and protect Ukrainian land” and should “not at all” serve as an “offensive threat to Russia.”

Key Background

Germany’s u-turn ends months of diplomatic jockeying over tank deliveries to Ukraine. Kyiv, always lobbying its Western allies for more military support, has been pushing especially hard for tanks. Germany, skittish about overtly flexing its military strength on the world stage and holding its export veto over the Leopard 2, has faced particularly strong pressure, including from allies like Poland who wanted to send tanks of their own. Ukraine’s battlefield victories and endurance are, in no small part, down to the deliveries of advanced weaponry from its Western allies and its officials say tanks are vital to fend off anticipated Russian counter offensives.

Chief Critic

Russia has simultaneously downplayed the importance of the tank deliveries and accused the West of “blatant provocation.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the “tanks will burn like all the rest,” according to news reports. “They are just very expensive.”

Crucial Quote

Officials across much of Europe have lauded Germany’s decision, including Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Elysee, the French government. Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, welcomed the news on Twitter with a pun, posting an image of a tank with a Ukrainian flag on a Ukrainian flag background and the phrase: “Tanke Schön.”

Tangent

A number of European countries are already expressing their support for Ukraine and intention or openness to sending Kyiv Leopard 2 tanks. This includes Poland, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain and Norway.

Further Reading

Leopard 2 tanks: what are they and why does Ukraine want them? (Guardian)

Republicans push to verify Russia’s compliance with nuclear treaty (Financial Times)

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