After concerns over a renewed Russian offensive, officials urge Berlin to allow the delivery of Leopard tanks built in Germany to Ukraine.
Britain’s offer to send more than a dozen Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine has increased pressure on Germany to do likewise with its coveted Leopard 2 battle tanks.
But the resignation of German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht on Monday has raised questions about whether Berlin will give the green light for battle tank exports to Ukraine.
With weeks to go before the winter snows melt, and with Russia mobilising for a spring offensive, Ukraine now requires a massive firepower boost from its Western allies – and it needs it fast.
The recent deadly Russian strike that killed dozens of civilians in Dnipro has also heightened the urgency for more robust military assistance to boost Ukraine's defences against Moscow.
The provision of Leopard 2 tanks by countries supporting Ukraine, however, is a contentious issue.
Officials in Kiev have consistently lobbied for modern tanks, but many Western governments were reluctant until recently to fulfil the request out of concern that doing so could escalate tensions with Moscow.
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However, Britain upped the stakes over the weekend, when British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak informed Kiev that Britain intends to send main battle tanks and artillery support to aid Ukraine's war effort against Russian forces.
Sunak discussed Britain's plans during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on January 14, according to a spokesperson for the prime minister's office.
Germany, on the other hand, has held back on supplying Ukraine with its Leopard 2 tanks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz repeatedly voicing concerns over his country being perceived as escalating the conflict and provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The chancellor has repeatedly argued against sending the tanks by saying that Germany must not act alone in sending Western tanks.
So far, countries have only supplied older Soviet-era battle tanks to Ukraine, but stocks of these vehicles as well as ammunition are increasingly running low, and awareness is growing that Kiev needs further support amid fears of a new Russian offensive.
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Germany under pressure
The German Chancellor's argument seems invalidated by Britain’s move.
Moreover, that thinking also appears to have changed with the news that multiple Western countries are now willing to provide modern tanks to Ukraine.
Poland, which reportedly has 249 Leopard 2 tanks in active service in its army, declared it was also willing to send a company of Leopard tanks to Ukraine “as part of international coalition building”.
Finland responded promptly by giving its cautious approval on January 12 to send Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev as well.
Commitments by other Western states to provide tanks would make it more difficult for Berlin to stand by its argument that it does not want to be alone in providing Kiev with tanks.
Germany plays a key role in the debate because the Leopard 2 tanks were manufactured in Germany. As a rule, the transfer of armaments from German production to third parties must be approved by Berlin.
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