After several months of back and forth, there are indications that Germany might approve the transfer of Leopard-2 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) to Ukraine.
Leopard-2 is a German Main Battle Tank that was developed and inducted in the 1970s during the Cold War era when Berlin feared a potential confrontation between NATO and the Russian-led Warsaw Pact.
The tank has been modified several times since and has many upgraded variants.
Earlier this week, the head of the Defense Committee of the German Parliament Bundestag confirmed in a tweet that the US had given the country the green light to go ahead with the transfer of the MBTs.
“This was confirmed to me during my visit to Washington in all my discussions with the State Department, Congress, and the Senate,” she wrote on Twitter.
Das wurde mir auch bei meinem Besuch in #Washington in allen meinen Gesprächen im Außenministerium, im Kongress und im Senat bestätigt. Unsere Partner erwarten, dass Deutschland seiner Verantwortung gerecht wird. Wir dürfen die Ukraine nicht im Stich lassen. Sie brauchen Panzer. https://t.co/Vm1VkS36xF
— Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (@MAStrackZi) December 7, 2022
A report by German media FAZ said that Germany could provide as many as 80 Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine from the inventories of Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
In addition, the other 30 units used at the Bundeswehr’s combat training center as mock targets can be replaced by Russian-made tanks from Ukrainian stocks.
Germany has been somewhat skeptical and remained reluctant in the face of demands to arm Ukraine with very advanced weapon systems since the onset of the war. On September 6, the German daily Welt reported that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had reportedly refused to send Leopard-2 tanks, citing Berlin’s military requirements.
In October, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that the transfer of tanks was not a priority for Germany and that Ukraine mainly needed air defenses to fight the war. Consequentially, Berlin supplied the IRIS-T air defense systems to Kyiv while sitting on the demand for Leopard-2 tanks.
Recently, the demands have been made afresh, and the issue has gotten much more traction after receiving Washington’s validation. It would only make sense to arm Ukraine with Leopard-2 as its neighbor Poland already operates the standard Leopard tank, reasoned Gustav Gressel from the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Germany has gone from being reluctant to arm Ukraine to increasing arms supplies aggressively. Against that backdrop and as the war enters a harsh winter, there are hopes that the Bundestag could relent to Kyiv’s requests.
If that happens, it will be the first instance of Ukraine receiving advanced Main Battle Tanks from a western country. So far, it has been provided with T-72 tanks in other East European nations like Poland and the Czech Republic.
Previous reports had indicated that Germany allegedly blocked Spain’s attempts to send the Leopard 2A4 tank to Ukraine for fear of escalation with Russia.
Hostile Tanks Have Surrounded Russia
With Leopard-2 tanks finally making it to Ukraine, Russia will be surrounded by the western Main Battle Tanks in its neighborhood. Several countries in the East European region already operate Western main battle tanks, with more joining in due to the insecurity induced by the Russian invasion.
For instance, 13 European armies—Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey—use the Leopard 2 tank. At least half of these are situated very close to Russia.
Besides, in August, Germany announced that it would supply legacy Leopard 2 tanks to Slovakia in exchange for sending Soviet-era fighting vehicles to Ukraine. The move was planned to fill the gap left in Slovakia’s inventory with western-grade weapons.
Recently, the US State Dept. cleared a possible sale of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks to Poland, which has requested to buy at least 116 Abrams tanks on top of the batch of Abram tanks that were ordered in 2020.
The country has been looking to replace its archaic Soviet-era T-72 tanks, and the delivery of Abrams could be expected to commence soon.
In addition to the Abrams and the Leopard 2, Poland also received South Korean Black Panther tanks recently. Warsaw is reportedly buying hundreds of K-2 Black Panther tanks from Seoul, out of which ten were delivered earlier this month.
K2 Black Panther is a next-generation South Korean main battle tank.
Another advanced Main Battle Tank is frequenting the East European region in a show of strength. In November, the second convoy of French military equipment, consisting of several Leclerc tanks, arrived in Romania to strengthen the NATO Battle Group.
The NATO Battle Group in Romania was established in May. Amid Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine, it strengthens Romania’s military ties with France and enhances the security of the Euro-Atlantic region on NATO’s Eastern Flank.
As for Ukraine, a few months ago, it was believed that if Ukraine acquired a Leopard or an Abrams, the conflict would intensify and might even spill over. The collective West thought it would be equivalent to crossing a boundary that the Kremlin might interpret as opening the door to direct conflict in Europe.
However, in a stark turn of events, some sources claim that the US is almost insisting Germany hand over Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine. As the war enters a turning point, advanced tanks could bolster Kyiv’s ground offensive.
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