questions and answers
The long road of Leopard tanks to Ukraine
“Can you deliver leopards? Then hand them over!” the President of Ukraine called out to the German Chancellor in front of the arms summit in Ramstein. Scholz continues to wait. His decision should be made in the next few days.
The fight of Ukraine to get the Leopard tanks has been going on for almost a year now. It began on day eight of Russia’s war of aggression, March 3, 2022, when the Ukrainian embassy in Berlin sent a so-called note verbale to the chancellor’s office, the foreign office and the defense ministry.
“To the perfidious aggression on the part of the Russian Federation “In order to finally be able to counteract Ukraine effectively, our allies urgently need to take all measures to massively strengthen Ukraine’s defense capability,” it said. This was followed by a wish list of almost 30 weapon systems that would now be needed in the defense against the Russian attackers First up: main battle tanks.
War in Ukraine: No heavy weapons from Germany at the beginning
the federal government had pledged bazookas, Stinger missiles and armored vehicles at this point. In addition, the then Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) brought 23,000 protective helmets to Ukraine. But no one in the federal government was thinking about supplying heavy weapons.
That changed radically in the months that followed. First Gepard anti-aircraft tanks were promised, then the Panzerhaubitze 2000, a modern artillery piece. Multiple rocket launchers were also eventually phased out Germany delivered and an anti-aircraft system capable of protecting an entire city. But one weapon system is still missing today: The Leopard 2, one of the most powerful main battle tanks in the world.
Defense ministers and military officials from around 50 countries are meeting today at the US Ramstein Air Force Base in Rhineland-Palatinate to discuss further arms deliveries to Ukraine. Also present: the new Defense Minister from Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Boris Pistorius (both SPD). At the start of the meeting he will have been in office for just 24 hours.
Will he bring the Panzer-Wende with him to Ramstein?
One thing is certain: the pressure on Chancellor Scholz and his government to make a decision has grown massively in the past few days. It is unclear whether something is already happening in Ramstein. Pistorius made it clear before the meeting: the question of whether German tanks will be delivered is a top priority. “That’s a question that the Chancellor is discussing with the American President,” he said on Thursday evening on ARD. But he also emphasizes: “I’m pretty sure that we will get a decision on this in the next few days.”
Why does Ukraine need battle tanks so badly?
The situation at the front has been deadlocked for weeks. Despite fierce fighting, the course hardly changes. Tanks can help Ukraine break through enemy positions and reclaim more occupied territories. There are also fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could launch a major offensive in the spring, which Ukraine intends to counter.
What criteria does Scholz use to make decisions?
For the chancellor, three principles apply to arms deliveries: 1. Ukraine must be resolutely supported. 2. Germany and NATO must not be drawn into the war. 3. There must be no going it alone.
With regard to the second criterion in particular, Scholz sees himself in agreement with the majority of the German population. Already in an early phase of the war he warned of a nuclear war. On the other hand, Putin has long seen NATO as a war party because of the arms deliveries to date. And the question arises: Do you want to be intimidated by Russian threats? The fact is that even the delivery of Leopard tanks would not make Germany and its allies a war party under international law.
Watch the video: Is it enough to deliver Marder tanks? Military expert assesses German military supplies to Ukraine.
What about the “no going it alone” argument?
In the case of battle tanks, this no longer works. Great Britain has already announced the delivery of such Challenger 2 tanks. Poland and Finland want to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Other European countries such as Sweden or Spain also sympathize with it. Now at the latest it is becoming clear that only one ally is decisive for Scholz: the USA. Whenever it came to doing something qualitatively new in arms deliveries, Scholz did not decide without the USA. This was the case with the multiple rocket launchers, with Patriot anti-aircraft systems and most recently with armored personnel carriers.
Doesn’t the USA have any battle tanks that they can supply?
Yes, they are called M1-Abrams and are similar to the Leopard 2. US President Joe Biden is just as hesitant as Scholz on the tank issue. However, for other reasons. Although the Americans have nothing against the delivery of main battle tanks in principle, they do not consider the provision of the Abrams to be practical for practical reasons. The US tanks would first have to be transported across the Atlantic, maintenance is more complex and they consume too much fuel. “It just doesn’t make sense to give the Ukrainians this tool right now,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh. At the same time, the US government has been saying for some time: No problem if Germany delivers.
main battle tank
Photo gallery Leopard 1 – the first own tank of the FRG (6 pictures)
Is it certain that Scholz would only deliver the Leopard tanks if Biden agreed to the Abrams?
no There are corresponding reports in the “Bild” and the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. But Pistorius said on Thursday: “I’m not aware of such a connection.”
Why does Germany play a key role in Leopard 2 tanks?
They are produced in Germany. The following applies to arms exports from Germany: A transfer to third countries must be approved by the federal government. This is usually stated in the sales contract. This means that Poland and Finland would first have to ask Scholz if their Leopard 2 tanks were to be delivered to Ukraine.
Could Germany allow other countries to deliver Leopard and not deliver themselves?
In principle yes, even if that would be difficult to convey. But it is also possible that the allies will first be allowed to deliver the Leopard 2 tanks – perhaps already in Ramstein – and that their own delivery will only be decided later. Pistorius made such a suggestion on Thursday evening on ARD. Regarding the possible export permit for allies, he said: “That will become clear in the next few hours or tomorrow morning.”