Poland announced on Monday that it will request Germany’s authorization to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, and that it would send the tanks regardless of Berlin’s response as long as other nations did the same.
The German-built Leopard 2, one of the most popular Western tanks, is what the Kyiv government plans to use to breach Russian defenses and retake land this year.
Germany, which must approve re-exports of the Leopard, said other NATO nations have not yet formally requested to re-export them because it is hesitant of actions that could worsen the situation with Moscow.
On Sunday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not stand in Poland’s way and on Monday, the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said Germany was not blocking the export of the tanks. But Warsaw’s call for a coalition signaled any transfer was still some way off.
Western countries have committed billions of dollars in new military aid to Ukraine in recent days: on Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to release their latest tranche, worth 500 million euros ($545 million), officials said.
However, the topic of battle tanks dominated discussions at both the EU summit on Monday in Brussels and the gathering of Western defense ministers last week in Germany.
The provision of battle tanks is now unjustified, according to Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics. “The escalation argument is invalid because Russia is still escalating,”
Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, which borders Ukraine, declared that Warsaw would request authorization from Berlin to re-export the tanks to Kyiv.
Poland has said it would provide a company of Leopards – around 14 – but Morawiecki said a transfer only made sense as part of a brigade – a variable but much larger number. Some 20 countries operate the tank, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.
Ukraine and Russia are both believed to be planning spring offensives to break the deadlock in what has become a war of attrition in eastern and southern Ukraine as the first anniversary of the Russian invasion nears.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, meanwhile, was grappling with a corruption scandal that could dampen Western enthusiasm for his government.
A newspaper reported that the Ukrainian military had allegedly secured food at highly inflated prices, and a deputy minister resigned after an investigation into allegations he accepted a bribe.