Germany is preparing to send its coveted Leopard 2 tanks in Ukraine to help bolster the country’s war effort, Der Spiegel reported Tuesday night, attributing to unnamed sources. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to deliver the battle tanks after “months of debate”, according to the German media’s exclusive report.
The German parliament is due to debate the contentious issue on Wednesday morning. Deciding to send them would be a historic moment in the West’s support for Kyiv that follows days of intense pressure on Berlin from some of its NATO partners.
CNN reached out to the German government for comment Tuesday evening but did not receive a response.
The report comes shortly after US officials revealed on Tuesday that the Biden administration was finalizing plans to send Tanks made in the USA to Ukraine. Germany had told the United States last week that it would not send its Leopard tanks unless the United States also agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks.
Sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine would provide Kyiv forces with a modern and powerful military vehicle ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive. It would also be a blow to the Kremlin, which has seen growth campaign to equip Ukraine troops with high-tech combat systems as Russia’s ground war nears the one-year mark.
Germany had resisted a growing drumbeat of Western pressure to ship some of the tanks to Ukraine, with Germany’s new defense minister Boris Pistorius repeatedly calling for more time and insisting that the move will s would come with advantages and disadvantages for Berlin.
Warsaw upped the ante on Tuesday when it formally requested permission to send its own Leopards, a move Berlin had previously said it would not block.
Several European countries also have Leopards, and Poland had led an effort to re-export them to Ukraine even though Germany was not on board. But Scholz and Pistorius’ decision was seen as crucial because the tanks are German-made and Germany generally controls their export and re-export.
A Polish official told CNN on Tuesday that to his knowledge, Berlin had not yet officially notified Warsaw of its decision to allow the Leopards to be sent to Ukraine.
The German army has 320 Leopard tanks in its possession but does not reveal how many would be combat-ready, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman previously told CNN.
Several high-tech combat systems have been pledged to Ukraine since the start of the year amid a fresh wave of Western military aid. The United States finalized a huge military aid package to Ukraine last week worth about $2.5 billion worth of weapons, including Stryker combat vehicles for the first time, while the UK and a number of EU countries have agreed to send tanks.
Pistorius, who became Germany’s defense minister on Thursday, saw his first days on the job dominated by efforts by key allies to join this trend by shipping Leopards to Ukraine. Germany in turn sought guarantees that the United States would also send its own tanks.
But the frustration of some leaders came to light after a Berlin summit last Friday ended without an agreement to send Leopards, with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accusing Germany of “wasting time” by not unable to make a decision.
The Leopard 2 tank would be a powerful combat vehicle for the Ukrainian battlefields.
Each tank contains a 120 mm smoothbore cannon and a 7.62 mm machine gun; it can reach speeds of 70 km/h (44 mph), or 50 km/h off-road, making maneuverability one of its key features. And there is comprehensive protection against threats, including improvised explosive devices, mines or anti-tank fire, according to its German manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly pleaded for countries to stop bickering over whether to send the tanks.
“We have spoken hundreds of times about the shortage of arms. We cannot leave on motivation alone,” he said during a virtual appearance at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last week.
Seeming as a nod to Germany’s blocking, Zelensky added: “There are times when there is no reason to hesitate. When people say – I’ll give you tanks if someone else does.
Russia had meanwhile sought to threaten Germany as it deliberated. Asked at a regular press briefing about Moscow’s reaction if Berlin approved sending tanks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said relations between the two countries “are already at a pretty low point. “, adding that there was currently “no substantive dialogue with Germany or with other EU countries”. and NATO countries.
“Of course, such deliveries do not bode well for the future of relations. They will leave an imminent mark,” Peskov said.
Previous military aid, such as the US HIMARS rocket system, has been vital in helping Ukraine carry out a series of successful counter-offensives in recent months.