Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced Monday that his country will formally ask Germany for permission to send its Leopard II tanks to Ukraine. Germany said Sunday that it will “not stand in the way” if Poland makes the request.
Morawiecki added that Poland plans to send the German-made combat tanks to Ukraine, whether Berlin agrees or not.
“Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine,” he said. “The condition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries.”
The issue of sending the widely-acclaimed Leopard tanks to Ukraine were at the center of discussions last week during a meeting of NATO’s Ukraine Defense Contract Group, held on Friday at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base.
Russia has threatened to retaliate against the United States and other Western nations if they supply Ukraine with more powerful weaponry.
Leopard 2 tanks were specifically designed to compete with the Russian T-90 tanks, which are being used in the invasion, according to the BBC.
It is believed there are more than 2,000 of the German-made tanks worldwide; Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said just 300 of them would help ensure a Russian defeat.
Berlin has been under pressure to supply the battle tanks to Ukraine and/or allow the 11 other European nations who also have them to send the tanks as well, since they are more widely available than those from Britain or France, and are less expensive to fuel and operate than Abrams M1 tanks from the US.
Britain has already said it will supply 14 of its Challenger II tanks to Ukraine. France has already committed to sending light tanks to Kyiv, and French President Emmanuel Macron has said he has not ruled out the possibility of sending heavier Leclerc battle tanks as well.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday that her government “would not stand in the way” if Poland or other allies asked for her country’s authorization to send Leopard II tanks to Ukraine.
Interviewed Sunday by French TV LCI in Paris, she stressed that Germany has “not been asked so far” but said, “If we were asked, we would not stand in the way.”
However, upon her arrival Monday in Brussels, Baerbock appeared to be walking back her remarks, declining to elaborate on her previous statements and simply telling reporters it is important to “do everything we can to defend Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Marcin Przydacz, foreign policy adviser to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, told Polish Radio on Monday that he welcomes Baerbock’s announcement, but would prefer to hear Germany’s position confirmed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz — who has yet to issue a definitive statement one way or the other.
What Germany is providing to Ukraine are vital air defense systems, such as IRIS-T and Patriot surface-to-air missiles, as well as armored personnel carriers.