Poland has reiterated that it is ready to send tanks to Ukraine without Germany’s consent, as pressure mounts on Berlin to provide the heavy weaponry demanded by Kyiv.
Poland’s prime minister said his government would ask Berlin for permission to send its German-made Leopard tanks to Ukrainebut called this consent of “secondary importance”.
Mateusz Morawiecki said: “Even if we didn’t get this approval…we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine.” He added that “the condition for us right now is to build at least a small coalition of countries.”
Berlin is under heavy pressure to release military hardware after failing to reach a decision at a much-anticipated international defense summit on Friday at the US military base in Ramstein in southwestern Germany.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s comment on Sunday that her country would “not stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine caused confusion in Berlin. At this time, it is unclear whether his remarks signal a change in government stance or simply an attempt by the Green Party to correct Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s failed communications strategy.
Baerbock did not repeat her comment when pressed about it Monday morning. “It is important that we, as an international community, do everything to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins. Because if it loses, Ukraine will cease to exist,” she told reporters at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.
Baerbock’s party colleague Robert Habeck, the German Minister of Economic Affairs, already signaled 10 days ago that his ministry would not block the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks from other European countries to Ukraine. “There’s a difference between making a decision on your own and hindering the decision of others,” Habeck said at the time.
While the re-export of German-made tanks must be approved by the Economy Ministry, Habeck’s carte blanche for such decisions has in effect shifted the decision-making process to Scholz’s office.
It’s hard to imagine that Scholz would really block Poland’s formal request to supply Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks from its reserves, made explicit on Monday, is hard to imagine, not least because it would blow up the chancellor’s position according to which the position of the allies on these issues is more united. than media reports have made it sound.
On Sunday evening, Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, dismissed reports of an open disagreement between Washington and Berlin over the battle tank issue. “Germany was not isolated,” Pistorius said of last Friday’s meeting at Ramstein Air Base.
Poland has declared itself ready to send 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine. In earlier comments, Morawiecki called Germany’s attitude unacceptable. “I try to weigh my words, but I will say it bluntly: Ukraine and Europe will win this war – with or without Germany,” he said.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels will discuss the issue on Monday, but no immediate breakthrough is expected.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said his country could provide Ukraine with some Leopard tanks and spare parts, and/or train soldiers to drive and maintain the tanks, but suggested that the decision was up to Germany. “We are still determining what type of package will be formed. We hope this is a position that countries like Germany could participate in,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s staunchest allies in the Baltic states have made clear they want Germany to act quickly. “Let me make it clear that Germany is a motor of Europe and also creates a special responsibility,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said. He said Estonia spent 1% of its national income on military aid to Ukraine and urged others to do the same. “We must give the Ukrainian people a shield but also a sword to liberate the territory.”
His Lithuanian counterpart, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said a “very heated debate” was going on in Germany. “I hope it will be successful as in the past, that Germany will send the tanks. Unfortunately, we who are waiting for them to be sent have to wait one more day.
Recalling Lithuania’s oppression under the Soviet Union, Landsbergis said “we have to overcome fear to defeat Russia”, without naming specific countries. “If we don’t prepare for Russia to lose the war, we don’t really want to help Ukraine win,” he said.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said he believed such weapons should be supplied to the Ukrainian military, but described it as a decision of EU member states.
The EU is expected to approve additional funding of €500m (£440m) for Ukraine through its European Peace Facility, pending legal formalities at a later date. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said she had “no doubt that this is a decision we will take today”.