After weeks of hesitation that created impatience among Germany’s allies, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Wednesday that his government would provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 battle tanks and approve requests by other countries to do the same.
The German government said it would initially provide Ukraine with one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, or 14 vehicles. The goal is for Germany and its allies to provide Ukraine with 88 of the German-made Leopards, which comprise two battalions.
“This is the result of intensive consultations, once again, with our allies and international partners,” Mr. Scholz said in an address to German lawmakers. “It was right and it is important that we didn’t let ourselves be driven (into making the decision),” he added.
The long-awaited decision came after U.S. officials revealed on Tuesday a preliminary agreement for the U.S. to send M1 Abrams tanks to help Ukraine’s troops push back Russian forces that remain entrenched in the country’s east almost a year after Russia invaded its neighbour.
It is not clear when or how the tanks would be delivered to Ukraine, or how soon they could have an impact on the battlefield. Military analysts have said Russian forces are thought to be preparing for a spring offensive.
While Ukraine’s supporters previously have supplied tanks, they were Soviet models in the stockpiles of countries that once were in Moscow’s sphere of influence but are now aligned with the West. Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials insisted their forces need more modern Western-designed tanks to defeat Russia.
Russia’s ambassador to Germany, Sergey Nechayev, called Berlin’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “extremely dangerous”.
U.S. to send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks
The U.S. will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, senior administration officials said on Wednesday, reversing months of persistent arguments by the Biden administration that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.
The U.S. decision came on the heels of Germany agreeing to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own stocks. Germany had said the Leopards would not be sent unless the U.S. put its Abrams on the table, not wanting to incur Russia’s wrath without the U.S. similarly committing its own tanks.
Since then, both sides had participated in “good diplomatic conversations” that had made the difference and were part of the “extraordinary shift in Germany’s security policy” over providing weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded 11 months ago, said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity to describe the new tank package in advance of the announcement.