Poland to Send German-Made Tanks to Ukraine Despite Berlin’s Hesitancy
January 24, 2023
Poland said Monday it will send its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine,
regardless of any objections from Berlin. Several European armies operate
the tanks but require Germany’s approval to re-export them to Ukraine.
“We will apply for such consent [from Germany], but this is a secondary
topic,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters. “Even if we
do not get this consent in the end, as part of a small coalition — even if
the Germans would not be in this coalition — we will still hand over our
tanks together with others to Ukraine,” he added.
Morawiecki did not elaborate on which countries could be part of such a
coalition. Lithuania and Finland have said they would be willing to send
their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, but they have not indicated that they
would be willing to do so against Germany’s wishes.
Germany is under intense pressure from Ukraine and Western allies to send
its highly regarded Leopard 2 tanks to aid Kyiv’s forces but is refusing to
make a quick decision.
Following a meeting Friday in Ramstein, Germany, of the Ukraine Defense
Contact Group — an alliance of about 50 states giving military support to
Kyiv — Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, explained his
“The impression which sometimes arose that there is a united coalition— and
that Germany is blocking it — is wrong,” Pistorius said. “There are good
reasons for a delivery, and there are good reasons against it. And in light
of the overall situation of the war, which has lasted nearly a year already,
all pros and cons must be weighed very carefully,” Pistorius said.
Ukraine says it urgently needs modern Western tanks to repel Russia’s
invasion and launch a new offensive in the spring. In recent days its
president has appealed to allies for more weapons.
“I am truly grateful to all of you for the weapons you have provided, every
unit helps to save our people from terror. But time remains a Russian
weapon,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the leaders gathered
Friday in Ramstein, via video link from Kyiv. “We have to speed up. Time
must become our common weapon, just like air defense and artillery, armored
vehicles and tanks, which we are negotiating about with you and which,
actually, will make the victory,” Zelenskyy said.
Britain last week confirmed plans to send 14 of its Challenger 2 main battle
tanks. The United States and France have not ruled out sending Ukraine their
main tanks, the Abrams and the Leclerc.
Germany’s Leopard 2 tank is seen as the most suited to the battlefield,
partly owing to its relatively lower fuel consumption and limited Ukrainian
supply lines. European armies have hundreds in their arsenals that could be
rapidly deployed to Ukraine.
Speaking Sunday, Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock — a member of
the Green party, part of the ruling coalition — said her country would not
prevent others from sending Leopard tanks: “For the moment the question has
not been asked, but if we were asked, we would not stand in the way,”
Domestic political tensions between the ruling coalition partners are
causing confusion, says analyst Benjamin Tallis of the German Council on
“[Baerbock’s statement] doesn’t actually equate to permission because of the
national security considerations in this case. It is actually the
chancellery — and so Olaf Scholz himself — who would have the final yes or
no say on this. And as his new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, said on
Friday, he has not decided yet,” Tallis told VOA.
Analysts say the Kremlin’s nuclear saber-rattling is causing concern in
“The chancellery is enormously afraid of nuclear war, and they perceive that
they are the prime target for that. I don’t know how this strange perception
came about … I have a bit of an impression that Scholz has lost sight of the
fact that Germany is actually a part of the NATO alliance,” Gustav Gressel,
of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Reuters.
Tallis agrees. “Russian propaganda has been targeting Germany in particular
to try and sow this nuclear fear and try and make them more vulnerable to
the kind of nuclear blackmail that now seems to be working.”
Unlike many of its Western allies, Tallis said Germany has not yet called
for a complete Ukrainian victory over Russia. “It’s quite widely accepted
now I think that should there be a decisive defeat for either side in this
war, it will have a system-transforming effect. Germany … doesn’t seem up
yet to the task of facing that level of change. I think there’s a
nervousness about that as well,” he told VOA.
Poland’s prime minister said Monday that his country is building a coalition
of nations ready to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine even if
Germany does not give formal permission for such transfers.
Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters that Poland will seek Germany’s
permission, but that asking for Berlin’s approval is of secondary
“We are constantly exerting pressure on the government in Berlin to make its
Leopards available,” Morawiecki said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French TV channel LCI Sunday
that if Poland were to request permission to send its Leopard 2 tanks to
Ukraine, “We would not stand in the way.”
Until Baerbock’s comments, Germany had been reticent to send its own Leopard
2s to Ukraine or approve their transfer by countries that purchased the
tanks from Germany.
Ukraine has long sought heavy tanks to combat Russian forces using more
modern tanks than those in Ukraine’s arsenal.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak,
wrote Monday on Telegram that what Ukraine needs is not 10-20 tanks, “but
several hundred” in order to achieve its goal.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the debate among European
countries about whether to send Ukraine tanks showed “increasing
nervousness” within NATO. He also warned that countries supplying weapons to
Ukraine “will carry responsibility for that.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday did not say whether Germany would
agree to provide Ukraine with battle tanks, but the Reuters news agency
reported that he said such decisions would be made in coordination with
allies including the United States.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he does not rule out the possibility
of sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine. He cautioned, however, that sending
tanks must not endanger France’s security or escalate the war between
Ukraine and Russia.
British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said Sunday in an interview with Sky
News he would like to see the Ukrainians “equipped with things like the
Rep. Michael McCaul, the newly installed Republican chairman of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC’s “This Week” that the United States
should offer its heavy Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine to encourage Germany
to send its Leopard 2s as well.
“Just one Abrams tank would be enough to prompt allies, notably Germany, to
unlock their own tank inventories for the fight against Russia,” he said.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons also told ABC that it was time to set aside
U.S. concerns about delivering the Abrams.
“I respect that our military leaders think the Abrams is too sophisticated,
too expensive a platform to be as useful as the Leopards, but we need to
continue to work with our close allies and move forward in lock step.”