The government of Poland has submitted a formal application to Germany’s economy ministry requesting permission to re-export its Leopard II battle tanks to Ukraine.
A German defense source on Tuesday confirmed that Poland had asked Germany to authorize a delivery of 14 Leopard II-A4 tanks to Ukraine, according to Reuters.
It is the German defense ministry, however, that will be in charge of the authorization process.
“We will treat the proceedings with the urgency they deserve,” a German government spokesperson said said.
“The Germans have already received our request for consent to the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine,” Poland’s Defense Minister, Mariusz Blaszczak wrote Tuesday in a tweet.
Niemcy otrzymali już nasz wniosek o wyrażenie zgody na przekazanie czołgów Leopard 2 na Ukrainę. Apeluję także do strony niemieckiej o przyłączenie się do koalicji państw wspierających Ukrainę czołgami Leopard 2. To nasza wspólna sprawa, bo chodzi o bezpieczeństwo całej Europy! pic.twitter.com/9oMQihI83Z
— Mariusz Błaszczak (@mblaszczak) January 24, 2023
“I also appeal to the German side to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks. This is our common cause, because it is about the security of the whole of Europe!” he wrote.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday that he expects a fast response, now that a formal request has been sent.
“I hope that this answer from Germany will come quickly, because the Germans are delaying, dodging, acting in a way that is difficult to understand,” Morawiecki said. “We can see that they do not want to help Ukraine defend itself in a wider way.”
Morawiecki added that he expects the European Union to pay for the tanks, calling it a test of “goodwill” from Brussels.
“The coalition of states that want to help Ukraine must expand. Germany is the largest country and should join this community,” Morawiecki said. “We await your prompt reply. We are already training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland. Other countries are doing it too, and we will continue to do so.”
Germany has not, in fact, ruled out the possibility of joining the coalition to send its Leopard II tanks to Ukraine. Government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit told reporters at a briefing on Monday, however, that no decision has yet been made either way.
“The federal (German) government does not rule out that they supply Leopard tanks. It hasn’t decided yet if it will do so. That’s why there’s this constant coordination among one another,” Hebestreit said.
NATO Chief Urges Delivery of Heavier, Faster Systems to Ukraine
NATO secretary-general Jens Soltenberg told reporters at a joint briefing in Berlin with Germany’s defense minister Boris Pistorius that member states need to step up and send heavier, faster weapons systems to Kyiv.
“I have expressly encouraged partner countries that have Leopard tanks ready for deployment to train Ukrainian forces on these tanks,” Pistorius told reporters.
However, the final decision on sending the tanks lies with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a spokesperson told the BBC.
“At this pivotal moment in the war, we must provide heavier and more advanced systems to Ukraine – and we must do it faster,” Stoltenberg told reporters. “This is urgent because Russia is preparing for new offensives. We need to enable the Ukrainians sooner or faster to be able to repel those offenses and liberate their own territory.
“I therefore welcome our discussion today,” he added. “We discussed the issue of battle tanks. Consultations among allies will continue and I’m confident we will have a solution soon.”
Why Leopard II Tanks?
Leopard II tanks were specifically designed to compete with Russia’s T-90 tanks, which are being used by Moscow’s forces in the war.
Each tank contains a 120mm Smoothbore gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun; it can reach speeds of 70 km per hour, or 50 kmp/h when off-road, making maneuverability one of its key features.
The tank has all-around protection from threats, including improvised explosive devices, mines or anti-tank fire, according to its German manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
Russia Warns Against Delivery of German Tanks to Ukraine
Russia has warned Germany not to allow delivery of the Leopard II tanks to Ukraine, according to DW.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that relations between Russia and Germany are “already at a fairly low point.”
Peskov noted that at present, there is “no substantive dialogue with Germany or with other EU and NATO countries.
““These deliveries would bring nothing good to the future of the relationship,” he said. “They will leave a lasting mark.”