British deliver battle tanks to Ukraine – will Germany follow suit?
The discussion has been going on for months, now Great Britain is leading the way and is supplying Western-style main battle tanks to Ukraine. And Germany? There are doubts about what is technically possible.
Great Britain is the first NATO country to have Ukraine Western-style battle tanks were promised, putting Germany and other allies under pressure. Over the weekend, the Ukrainian ambassador Oleksii Makeiev urgently appealed to the German government to quickly clear the way for the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks.
“We have very little time to discuss,” he told the German Press Agency. “German weapons, German tanks are essential for survival.” But there are doubts as to whether Germany can deliver at all quickly itself. The armaments company Rheinmetall pointed out that it would take about a year to repair old Leopard 2 tanks.
British want to deliver 14 tanks in the next few weeks
The British should go faster. They want 14 in the coming weeks main battle tank of the Challenger 2 type to Ukraine. The timing is good because Russia “has gotten on the defensive due to supply shortages and dwindling morale (of its troops),” the government said in a statement in London on Saturday evening. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak therefore wanted to “encourage allies” to launch their support for Ukraine planned for 2023 “as soon as possible in order to achieve maximum effect”.
The British government wants the decision to be understood as a signal to the allies. This Friday, the defense ministers of Western countries will discuss further military support for Ukraine, which has been attacked by Russia, at the US air base in Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate. Germany has a key role in this, because the Leopard 2 tanks are produced in Germany and the transfer to other countries from the federal government must be approved. This is usually anchored in the sales contract.
Poland and Finland want to follow suit
While only Great Britain and Oman have the Challenger, 20 countries worldwide have the Leopard. In the case of a delivery of this type, the supply of the Ukrainian armored forces with spare parts and ammunition would be much easier. The Leopard 2 tank is considered one of the best main battle tanks in the world, and the Ukrainians want to use it to break through enemy lines in what has been a rather static trench warfare lately.
Poland and Finland have already agreed to supply Leopard tanks as part of the European alliance. The federal government has not yet taken a position on this. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) obviously wants to wait and see how the USA, which has a heavy battle tank from its own production with the M1 Abrams, behaves. So far, Germany has always made decisive decisions about arms deliveries in agreement with the Americans.
Makeiev: “German weapons save lives”
The Ukrainian ambassador made it clear in the dpa interview that any further hesitation could cost lives. “German weapons save lives,” Makeiev said. “German anti-aircraft systems will help us to intercept the missiles, and the German tanks will help us to liberate territories. And the atrocities committed there by Russian occupying forces will decrease.”
The Ambassador reiterated that Ukraine is fighting this war on behalf of all its allies. “There’s a term for it in German: proxy war,” he said. “Russia is waging a war not only against Ukraine, but against Europe and the whole civilized, democratic world. And in this war, the Ukrainians are at the front.”
Rheinmetall: Leopard is “not just repainted”
It is unclear whether Germany could quickly deliver the Leopard 2 itself. “Even if the decision is made tomorrow that we can send our Leopard tanks to Kyiv, delivery will take until the beginning of next year,” said Rheinmetall boss Armin Papperger of “Bild am Sonntag”. Rheinmetall is the only German company that specializes in repairing and modernizing old Leopard 2 tanks and then reselling them.
According to Papperger, the Düsseldorf-based company has 22 Leopard 2s and 88 copies of the older Leopard 1 model. The repair of the decommissioned battle tanks takes “almost a year,” he said. “The vehicles are not only repainted, but have to be converted for a war effort. They are completely dismantled and then rebuilt.” Rheinmetall cannot repair the tanks without an order because the costs are several hundred million euros. “Rheinmetall cannot pre-finance that,” said Papperger.
29 Leopard-2 for the Czech Republic and Slovakia
The company will initially deliver a total of 29 Leopard tanks to the Czech Republic and Slovakia by the end of 2023 as part of the so-called ring exchange. The two countries get them in return for handing over Soviet-designed T-72 tanks to Ukraine.
The Bundeswehr has already given up most of its older-type Leopard 2 tanks and only has a good 300 more modern examples that it actually needs itself. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) did not want to answer the question of whether there are still capacities for Ukraine during a visit to the troops last week. “There is no decision in the federal government to give up battle tanks,” she said. “That’s why this question doesn’t arise beyond that.”