Germany wants US to send tanks to Ukraine first – WSJ

Olaf Scholz’s government may approve sending Leopard tanks to Kiev, but reportedly needs the US to send its own Abrams tanks first

Germany wants US to send tanks to Ukraine first – WSJ
19 Jan, 2023 00:53 HomeWorld News

Germany wants US to send tanks to Ukraine first – WSJ

Only when the US sends its own tanks will Berlin approve Leopards going to Kiev, officials allegedly said

As demands for Berlin to approve the shipment of Leopard main battle tanks to Kiev threatened to fracture the German ruling coalition, senior officials said the US should agree to send its Abrams tanks first, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Poland, Finland and Denmark have all volunteered to send some of the Leopards in their possession to the Ukrainian military, but such a move would require Germany’s permission. Berlin has yet to receive any formal requests to that effect, officials told the Journal.

“Senior German officials” told the outlet that Germany would be willing to give approval, but only if the US announced it would send Kiev some of its own Abrams MBTs. 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has described Germany as “strategically interlocked” with its friends and partners when it came to decisions on how to support Ukraine. Asked on Wednesday about the Leopard situation, Scholz told the World Economic Forum in Davos that he was concerned about the conflict in Ukraine escalating.

“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.

While insisting that they are not parties to the conflict, the US and its allies have also argued that “Russia must lose” and supplied Kiev with money and an array of increasingly heavier weapons.

Scholz’s coalition is reportedly split on the issue, with the Greens and Free Democrats in favor of giving Ukraine Leopards right away, while his own Social-Democrats are reluctant. Defense Minister Christine Lambert resigned this week, in part due to the tank controversy. Her replacement, Boris Pistorius, admitted on Wednesday that Germany was “indirectly” involved in the conflict but would not comment on the Leopard affair.

Getting Abrams tanks from the US has long been the goal of Ukraine’s Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov, who told Politico in October that the Leopard was a stepping stone on that road. 

According to the same outlet, Washington is reportedly unwilling to take that step at the moment, though not out of fear of further antagonizing Russia. Unnamed Pentagon officials told Politico on Wednesday that the issue is with the “logistical and maintenance challenges” of the Abrams, a 67-ton machine with a gas-guzzling turbine engine.

On Monday, the UK announced it would send 14 of its Challenger II MBTs, in hopes of nudging other NATO members to follow suit. The single squadron appears to be all the British Army is willing to spare at the moment, though a Tory MP admitted on Wednesday that Kiev needs hundreds to actually make a difference.

Moscow has repeatedly warned the West that sending weapons to Ukraine only prolongs the inevitable and risks escalation. Asked about the Challengers on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said only that “those tanks can burn and they will burn like the rest.”