Germany approves long-awaited delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as US finalizes plans to send Abrams



CNN

Germany has confirmed it will send a fleet of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in a major sign of support for Kyiv that is expected to be matched by the United States.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s announcement on Wednesday, along with the expected decision by the United States to send 30 M-1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, marks a historic moment after intense pressure there Berlin from its NATO allies.

Scholz told his cabinet about his decision that Germany would strengthen military support for Ukraine, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said. “The federal government has decided to supply the Leopard 2 tanks to the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said.

“This is the result of extensive consultation with Germany’s closest European and international partners. This decision follows our well-known policy of supporting Ukraine for Ukraine as much as we can. ”

The announcement came a day after CNN reported that the Biden administration was ending plans to send US tanks to Ukraine, a move that appeared to break a diplomatic standoff with the Scholz administration. German officials have publicly said they will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine only if the United States also sends Abrams tanks, despite repeated U.S. officials insisting it would be difficult. and maintenance of the Abrams tank is difficult.

The row over whether Germany will send Leopards to support Ukraine threatens to show some of the first cracks in the unified Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the announcement from Scholz and the news that Washington is planning its own launch seems to show the US and its allies are still operating undercover when it comes to supporting President Volodymyr Zelensky and the his country’s war against the Russians.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “This Hour” that the decision by Germany and the U.S. was an “important statement” and that “the leadership is welcome.” “American” in doing so.

“It will strengthen their combat capabilities,” Stoltenberg said of the tanks’ impact on Ukraine’s military.

Germany’s goal is to assemble two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine, the government said in a statement. In the first phase, Berlin will provide 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from the Bundeswehr stock, with the training of the Ukrainian team to start soon in Germany. In addition to training, there will also be software, ammunition and maintenance of the systems.

The German defense ministry said Leopard tanks could be operational in Ukraine in about three months. Boris Pistorius, speaking to the press on Wednesday, said that the training will be the first, the tanks will be sent to the east.

The German army has 320 Leopard 2 tanks but has not disclosed how many will be ready for combat, a former Defense Ministry spokesman told CNN.

Germany will also allow other countries to export tanks, he said. Poland on Tuesday formally requested Germany’s approval to transfer some of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Several European countries also have some leopards, and Poland has led efforts to re-export them to Ukraine even though Germany is not on board.

Speaking to the German parliament after the announcement, Scholz said he had spoken to Zelensky before coming to parliament.

During his speech, the German leader said that Germany, along with the United States and the UK, sent the most weapons to Ukraine and insisted that his country would be at the forefront of supporting Ukraine.

The delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine will provide Kyiv’s armed forces with modern and powerful military vehicles ahead of a possible Russian spring offensive. It would also come as a blow to the Kremlin, which has seen a growing campaign to equip Ukraine’s military with high-tech combat systems as the ground war in Russia approaches a year old.

Germany initially resisted mounting Western pressure to send some tanks to Ukraine, with new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius repeatedly calling for more time and insisting that the move would come from The downside for Berlin.

The decision of the United States to provide tanks of Abrams to Ukraine shows a sudden appearance from the position mentioned earlier.

While the Biden administration has never taken sending the US tanks off the table, US officials said publicly last week that it was not the right time to send the 70-ton M-1 Abrams tank because it was too expensive. and they charge a lot of money. the amount of training to work.

Tanks, on the other hand, have repeatedly been floated as a permanent option – although critics say the timing is right, as Ukraine prepares for the possibility that Russia will mobilize more troops and launch a new offensive. Zelensky has regularly asked Western allies for modern tanks as his country prepares weapons for a major Russian offensive in the spring.

The decision to send Abrams tanks by the US will depend on an “iterative process” assessing Ukraine’s needs, the potential aid the US can send and technical considerations around operation and maintenance. tanks, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said Tuesday evening.

“We talked about the fact that the Abrams is a very capable system but it’s a very expensive system to operate and maintain,” Kirby told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”

“It has a jet engine – it doesn’t mean that the Ukrainians can’t learn it, it just means that we have to integrate it with all the systems that we might give them,” he added. .

Sky News Arabia was the first to report the news that the US was considering sending the tanks.

The UK set a precedent by donating large tanks to Ukraine last week after it promised to send Kyiv 14 of the British Challenger 2 tanks. The deal crossed what appeared to be a red line for the the United States and its European allies.

The Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly asked their Western allies to provide them with modern tanks – to be used not only for the protection of their current positions, but also for carrying out the fight against the enemy in next month. Ukrainians fear a second Russian offensive could begin within two months.

Although Ukraine has a stockpile of Soviet-era tanks, modern Western tanks offer greater levels of speed and agility. In particular, the maintenance requirements of the Leopard compared to other models make experts believe that the tanks can quickly help Ukraine on the battlefield.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised Germany’s move as the “right decision” after Wednesday’s announcement.

“It’s a good decision by NATO allies and friends to send large tanks to Ukraine. Together with the Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defense forces. Together we are accelerating our efforts to to ensure that Ukraine wins this war and ensure lasting peace,” Sunak wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff welcomed the news and stressed that the country needs “big” tanks. Andriy Yermak wrote in Telegram: “The first stage of the tank has been completed. Next is the ‘coalition tank’. We need a lot of leopards.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki praised German Chancellor Scholz for his decision. “Thank you Olaf Scholz. The decision to send leopards to Ukraine is an important step in stopping Russia. We are stronger together,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

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