Germany says ‘yes’ to sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine
Germany has now made a major U-turn by agreeing to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to help it fight off Russia’s 11-month-long invasion, reports say.
Reuters quotes two official sources as saying that Berlin has also dropped its opposition to other countries, such as Poland, to re-export their own German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.
US officials have similarly told Reuters that the Biden administration may drop its own opposition to sending American-made M1 Abrams tanks.
While there was no official confirmation from Berlin or Washington, Ukrainian officials swiftly hailed what they said was a “potential game changer” on the battlefield.
“A few hundred tanks for our tank crews — the best tank crews in the world. This is what is going to become a real punching fist of democracy against the autocracy from the bog,” Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration, wrote on Telegram.
Kyiv has pleaded for months for Western tanks that it says are desperately needed to give its forces the firepower and mobility to break through Russian defensive lines and recapture occupied territory in the east and south.
A German government spokesperson and the foreign and the defence ministries in Berlin declined to comment.
Defence procurement rules mean Germany must approve re-exports of the NATO workhorse tank by its allies, including Poland.
The German decision concerns at least one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, said Der Spiegel magazine, which first reported the news. One company usually comprises 14 tanks.
“Today the chancellor made a decision that no one took lightly. The fact that Germany will support Ukraine with the Leopard tank is a strong sign of solidarity,” Christian Duerr, parliamentary leader of the co-governing Free Democrats (FDP), was quoted as saying by t-online news portal.
A recent ABC report says front lines in the Ukraine war, which stretch more than 1,000 kilometres through eastern and southern Ukraine, have been largely frozen in place for two months despite heavy losses on both sides.
Russia and Ukraine are both widely believed to be planning new offensives.
In recent days, Ukraine’s Western allies have been embroiled in sometimes feisty exchanges over whether or not to supply Ukraine with significant numbers of heavy modern battle tanks.
Writing by Tony Okerafor