Germany’s chancellor avoided committing to the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine at the Davos summit on Wednesday, although he held the door open to a positive decision at a special summit of western defence ministers on Friday, writes The Guardian.
Olaf Scholz did not mention the Leopard tanks at all when a Ukrainian delegate asked him “why the hesitancy” in signing off their re-export – prompting an apparently frustrated Ukrainian president to warn the same forum against delay.
The German leader argued his country was “strategically interlocked” with the US, France and other “friends and partners”, and that any decisions about weapons had to be part of a collective effort to help Ukraine win the war.
“We are working together with them, we are discussing with them,” Scholz said, referring to Germany’s allies. “We are never doing something just by ourselves, but together with others, especially the US, which are very important in this common task to defend the Ukrainian independence and sovereignty.”
A few minutes later, Ukraine’s president delivered a speech via video link to the same forum, arguing instead for urgent action. Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the world “must not hesitate” in helping his country fight off the invaders, and added: “The time the free world uses to think is used by the terrorist state to kill.”
About 50 western defence ministers of the Ukraine contact group will assemble at the Ramstein airbase in Germany on Friday, at a meeting chaired by the US secretary, Lloyd Austin, to discuss and coordinate future military aid to Kyiv.
Earlier this month, the US and Germany jointly announced they would send Bradley and Marder fighting vehicles to Ukraine, and some sources said they believed something similar could happen at the end of this week.
Poland and Finland have said they want to send Ukraine Leopard 2 tanks, of which there are about 2,300 stockpiled in varying states of repair by Nato countries. But permission from Germany, where the Leopard was originally made, to re-export them is needed.
Ukraine has said it wants as many as 300 western tanks to help it win the war, while experts believe it needs at least 100 to mount a credible spring offensive. The tanks are needed to replace losses, and Leopard 2s have superior capabilities, such as thermal optics, to the Soviet-era tanks that comprise Ukraine’s heaviest armour.