Germany: No Leopard tanks to Kiev unless US agrees to send its Abrams
WSJ reports that Berlin will not allow sending German-made tanks from allied countries to Ukraine until Washington approves sending US-made Abrams main battle tanks.
Berlin will not allow allies to send German-made tanks to Kiev unless Washington agrees to ship to Ukraine US-made tanks, a German senior official stated on Wednesday according to The Wall Street Journal.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies reported that NATO countries have more than 2,000 German-made Leopard tanks, which are considered to be one of the most advanced battle tanks currently in the world.
Earlier, several European countries announced readiness to provide Ukraine with German-made battle tanks if Berlin approves it.
The UK became the first country to announce plans for the delivery of heavy battle tanks to Kiev. The supply of the Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems are intended to assist Ukrainian forces "push back the Russian troops," said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“One can’t differentiate between direct exports (of German-made tanks) and exports by third countries,” a German official said on Wednesday, the media outlet reported.
Sending advanced, complex military equipment to Ukraine would be considered as a major escalation by the West in its arming of Kiev, which Germany has repeatedly warned against due to the increased risk of causing a direct clash between NATO and Russia, noted the news site.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced earlier today that Berlin is “strategically interlocked” with its allies and partners regarding the decisions on how to provide support to Ukraine, which also includes tanks.
According to the WSJ, a meeting between representatives of 50 countries supporting Ukraine, known as the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, is planned to take place on Friday at the American Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where they will discuss a new batch of military aid to Ukraine.
According to informed diplomats from several NATO states, the approval to send German-made Leopard tanks from third countries will be one of the main topics of the meeting.
Despite all public discussions regarding sending German tanks to Ukraine, officials from Berlin said no official requests have been submitted so far, noting that when such requests come through, the government would respond quickly, adding that the approval period might span between a few days and a few weeks.
A senior European official, however, stated that it is unlikely that Germany will make a decision in the upcoming meeting on Friday to allow sending the Leopard tanks to Kiev.
US refusal to send its own main battle tanks making Scholz reluctant
Berlin's government is currently divided on the matter, the news site added.
Parties in the Chancellor's coalition, including the Free Democrats and the Green Party, are in favor of sending the tanks to Kiev, while his left-leaning party, the Social Democrats, have been hesitant on the decision, especially since Washington is rejecting to send its Abrams main battle tanks.
In April last year, Scholz suggested that sending any Western tanks to Ukraine would increase the risk of a nuclear war between NATO and Russia.
However, according to two of his aides, as per the WSJ, his concerns have calmed as a group of global powers, including close allies to Moscow, such as China's President Xi Jinping, have denounced threats of using nuclear arms in Ukraine.
Yet, the German Chancellor remains wary, the news site added.
Scholz responded to a question addressed to him during the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier today regarding his reluctance to send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, stressing that he was worried that the war in Ukraine could become a global conflict.
Read more: Scholz's popularity down 24% in a year: Poll
“The Ukrainians can rely on our support in their courageous fight but it is also clear that we want to avoid this becoming a war between Russia and NATO,” he said.
Earlier today, citing industry sources, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported that there is a possibility that Germany may ship 10-15 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine this year.
This comes after the chief executive of German defense group Rheinmetall, Armin Papperger, told Germany's Bild am Sonntag that even though his firm houses 22 Leopard 2 tanks, and 88 Leopard 1 tanks, it would still take about a year to ship them to Ukraine.
The German army has already given up most of its Leopard tanks of older designs and exported them to Turkey, Greece, and Denmark, among other clients. The army still possesses around 300 modern versions, but they have no plans of selling them. The army reportedly refused to provide additional details on the strengths, and equipment of associations, or units.