By Michael Fischer and Julia Naue, dpa I Tuesday, February 28, 2023
BERLIN – The German government has contradicted an account from the White House that US President Joe Biden agreed to the delivery of Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine only at Germany’s insistence – and against the recommendation of its military officials.
Deputy government spokesman Wolfgang Büchner made it clear in Berlin on Monday that the decision to jointly supply battle tanks was reached in an amicable manner from Germany’s point of view.
“These were good, constructive talks in which care was always taken by both sides to arrive at a joint approach,” he said.
Büchner reiterated an earlier statement by government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit that Chancellor Olaf Scholz had never made the delivery of German Leopard tanks conditional on the provision of Abrams tanks. He did not need to correct those previous statements, Büchner said.
Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday gave a different account of the decision-making in a television interview. Biden “originally decided against sending them [Abrams tanks] because his military told them that they would not be useful on the battlefield in this fight,” Sullivan told broadcaster ABC.
“What would be useful would be German tanks,” he went on, naming the German-made Leopard. “But the Germans told the president that they would not be prepared to send those Leopards into the fight … until the president also agreed to send Abrams.”
“So, in the interest of alliance unity and to insure that Ukraine got what it wanted, despite the fact that the Abrams aren’t the tool they need, the president said OK,” Sullivan said. “I will send Abrams down the road if you send Leopards now.”
The inconsistency over such a politically charged issue for Scholz comes ahead of his planned visit to the White House on Friday. Despite repeated urging by Kiev, Scholz long hesitated to provide Germany’s Leopard main battle tanks, only changing his stance last month after Washington agreed to supply its own Abrams tanks. Scholz has also repeatedly underlined how closely Germany is coordinating with its allies over the question of providing material for Ukraine.