International criticism of Germany is building over its reluctance to approve the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to fight against Russian aggression.
A meeting of Ukraine’s allies at the U.S. Army base at Ramstein, Germany to discuss how to arm Ukraine ended with an impasse over the German-made tanks, seen as an essential upgrade to the Soviet-era vehicles Kyiv’s forces currently use.
Poland is among the European countries who have agreed to supply the tanks to Ukraine but their re-export requires Berlin’s permission.
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius has denied Berlin was blocking their delivery and said that “we have to balance all the pros and contras before we decide.”
However, Poland’s foreign minister Zbigniew Rau tweeted that “arming Ukraine in order to repel the Russian aggression is not some kind of decision-making exercise.”
“Ukrainian blood is shed for real. This is the price of hesitation over Leopard deliveries,” he said. “We need action, now.”
The foreign ministers of the three Baltic states said they “call on Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now” in a statement tweeted by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. “Germany as the leading European power has a special responsibility in this regard,” it added.
Several thousand people also gathered outside the Bundestag building in Berlin to protest against Germany’s hesitation to provide the Leopard 2 tanks.
Germany is one of Ukraine’s leading weapons suppliers but Chancellor Olaf Scholz also has gained a reputation for hesitating to take each new step which has created frustration among allies.
A day before the meeting in Germany, the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had suggested Warsaw could supply Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine without Germany’s consent if it waits too long for approval.
And according to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Saturday said: “If we don’t support Zelensky, we’re playing Putin’s game. Russia never stopped in the past, our job today is to save lives.”
In a Twitter thread on Saturday Gustav Gressel, senior policy fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), said that a plan to supply Leopard tanks that the ECFR had argued for in September was “dead.”
He said that surplus and reserve tanks were only a small part of the force and to make an impact in a long war more deliveries would be needed. While this was possible as the Leopard is still in production, there is a question mark over whether states would commit to replace donated vehicles which cost around eight million euros each.
“After recent escapades there will be much greater reluctance to do so,” Gressel wrote.
Newsweek has contacted Germany’s foreign ministry for comment.
This week did see a substantial package of Western support announced. This included the U.S. committing 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 90 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers, air defence systems and tens of thousands of rockets and artillery rounds.
The U.K. announced ammunition, training and anti-aircraft guns, as well as 600 Brimstone missiles. French-made Caesar howitzers from Denmark and Sweden’s Archer artillery system will also be earmarked for Ukraine.