Germany is reportedly set to deliver its highly sought-after Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in an effort to bolster the country’s military capabilities and support its ongoing war effort. According to a report by German news outlet Der Spiegel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has made the decision to send the tanks following months of debate and discussions. The German parliament is set to debate the matter on Wednesday morning.
This move is a significant step in the West’s support for Ukraine, particularly in light of recent pressure from NATO partners on Germany to provide military aid. The report comes shortly after US officials announced that the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send US-made tanks to Ukraine. Germany had previously indicated that it would only send its Leopard tanks if the US also agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks.
The provision of these modern and powerful tanks to Ukraine’s forces would be a major asset in the event of a potential Russian spring offensive. It would also be seen as a blow to the Kremlin, which has been closely monitoring the growing campaign to equip Ukrainian troops with advanced military equipment as the ground war in Ukraine approaches its one-year mark.
Germany has resisted pressure from its Western allies to send tanks to Ukraine in the past, with new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius calling for more time to consider the pros and cons of such a move. However, the decision made by Scholz and Pistorius is considered crucial as the tanks are German-made and Germany is typically in control of their export and re-export.
Poland, along with several other European countries, also owns some Leopard tanks and had been leading efforts to re-export them to Ukraine even if Germany was not on board. However, it is unclear if Poland has been formally notified of Germany’s decision to allow the tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
The German army currently possesses 320 Leopard tanks, but it is not publicly known how many of them are battle ready. In recent months, several advanced military systems have been pledged to Ukraine as part of a renewed wave of Western military aid. The US has finalized a military aid package totaling approximately $2.5 billion worth of weaponry, including Stryker combat vehicles, while the UK and several EU countries have also agreed to send tanks.
Pistorius, who became Germany’s Defense Minister last week, has been heavily involved in discussions surrounding the shipment of Leopard tanks to Ukraine. However, some leaders have expressed frustration with Germany’s lack of a clear decision on the matter, with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accusing Germany of “wasting time” by failing to come to a decision.
Each Leopard 2 tank is equipped with a 120mm Smoothbore gun and a 7.62mm machine gun, and is capable of reaching speeds of up to 70 km per hour on-road or 50 km per hour off-road. The tanks are also designed to provide all-around protection against a range of threats, including improvised explosive devices, mines, and anti-tank fire.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged countries to put aside their differences and provide the necessary military aid to Ukraine. He has stated that Ukraine cannot rely solely on motivation and that there are moments when there is no need to hesitate.
Russia, meanwhile, has been closely monitoring the situation and is likely to respond to any development regarding the shipment of tanks to Ukraine.