By dpa correspondents l Thursday, January 19, 2023
BERLIN – The pressure is building fast for authorities in Berlin to supply the German Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky among others taking turns on Thursday to criticize a hesitation in delivering heavy arms.
“There are times when we shouldn’t hesitate and say: ‘I will give tanks if someone else shares their tanks.’ I don’t think this is the right strategy to go with,” Zelensky told a panel on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Zelensky has been pleading for Germany to send Leopard 2 battle tanks. But so far Chancellor Olaf Scholz has resisted, saying he needed to be in lockstep with NATO allies, namely the United States.
The German government will face a major test on Friday when allies meet at a US Air Force base in Ramstein in western Germany to discuss arms for Ukraine.
The pressure is coming at Berlin from nearly all fronts.
In Kiev, the head of the president’s office, Andriy Yermak, once again urged the delivery of tanks.
“The issue of tanks for Ukraine should be resolved as soon as possible,” Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging service on Thursday. He added that the same applies to additional air defence systems. “We don’t have time, the world doesn’t have that time either,” he said.
The head of the Munich Security Conference, Christoph Heusgen, called for Germany to play a leading role in the delivery of battle tanks.
“If you want to lead, that can’t mean always doing the bare minimum last,” the former top diplomat told dpa a day ahead of the key meeting. We have to go ahead and actually exercise that leadership.”
Estonia’s Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur on Thursday also called on Germany and other allies to supply modern weapons systems to Ukraine.
“Estonia strongly supports providing Ukraine with all the necessary military equipment to win this war, including heavy equipment such as Leopard tanks,” he told dpa in the capital Tallinn ahead of a meeting of several European defence ministers in Estonia on Thursday.
This must be done “in a timely manner,” he said. “The outcome of this war will determine the future of our common security,” Pevkur stressed.
Poland said on Thursday that it could send some of its German-made Leopards to Ukraine even without authorization from Berlin. Germany is currently not approving such deliveries from third countries, which is causing further frustration among allies.
Britain has already announced that is sending its Challenger 2 tanks to the beleaguered east European nation. German media outlets including Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Wednesday night that Scholz was now ready to provide the Leopards as long as Washington provides comparable tanks.