Germany resists sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine despite allied pressure | International

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German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius during a press conference this Friday at the Ramstein military base (Germany).RONALD WITTEK (EFE)

Berlin needs more time. At the moment, its modern Leopard tanks are not going to see combat on the territory of Ukraine. The German government remains firm and does not give in to the pressure it has been enduring for weeks to give the go-ahead for sending its powerful tanks to kyiv. According to his new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, there is still no unanimous opinion among the Allies in favor of deploying Western-made heavy tanks. The expectations set at the meeting this Friday at the Ramstein airbase have resulted in the maintenance of the refusal, but with nuances. Germany does not close the door to a future change of opinion, but requires an international coalition from its partners to take the step.

Meanwhile, the German Armed Forces are not going to sit idly by waiting for that agreement to arrive, as explained by Pistorius in Ramstein. The Government intends to make an inventory of its Leopards to know exactly what state they are in and how many it could send to Ukraine. "We are preparing just in case," he said.

Berlin's role is key in sending modern battle tanks to kyiv because Germany is the manufacturer of the Leopard, the model that many European partners have in their arsenals and the one preferred by the Ukrainian army at this stage of the war. The chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has it in his hand to make the wishes of President Volodimir Zelenski come true, who this Friday once again implored a positive decision. Without the authorization of the Germans, no other country can deliver its Leopards, even if it has them and is willing to give them up, as Poland and the Baltics have announced.

The Contact Group for Ukraine promised to continue supporting kyiv with the weapons and training it needs, but in Ramstein it did not make new announcements of concrete offers because many of its members had made them the day before. Just hours earlier, a group of nine NATO member countries — Estonia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Slovakia — had pledged to make “unprecedented” arms shipments. They advanced that they will provide the kyiv army with tanks, heavy artillery, air defense, ammunition and infantry vehicles. The key word in the declaration signed after a meeting at the military base in Tapa (Estonia) is "battle tanks". These are the capitals that are in favor of sending the Leopards or other equivalent armored vehicles (such as the British Challenger, of which London has promised kyiv 12 units) and that with their declaration they wanted to add pressure on Germany before the Ramstein appointment. Obviously it had no effect.

The United States also announced Thursday that it is preparing a new $2.5 billion aid package that for the first time includes 90 Stryker armored infantry vehicles as well as new Bradley armored units. For now Washington excludes the Abrams, its most advanced tanks, from the list. More countries have advanced that they will increase their aid before the spring. Sweden will send armored infantry and Archer howitzers and Germany has promised new air defense systems.

Poland still sees hope

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Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak confirmed in Ramstein that representatives of the 30 NATO countries and 20 other allies have failed to reach an agreement, but said he was optimistic. “There is hope because the defense ministers of 15 countries have dealt with the issue on the sidelines of the conference. I am convinced that in the end it will be possible to build a coalition [para enviar tanques de manera conjunta]", he pointed.

In his government, not everyone had such kind words for Germany. More in line with the latest statements by the Polish leaders, the Foreign Minister, Zbigniew Rau, complained on his Twitter account: “Arming Ukraine to repel Russian aggression is not a decision-making exercise. Ukrainian blood is shed for real. This is the price of indecision over Leopard deliveries. We need action, now." Warsaw is undoubtedly the ally that has put the most pressure on Berlin, even suggesting that it will send its Leopards without permission.

Pistorius' intervention was defensive. He stressed that Germany is not the only country that prefers to act cautiously at the risk of escalation. “There are good reasons to supply [los tanques] and also not to supply them, and in view of the current situation, with a war that has been going on for almost a year, the pros and cons must be carefully evaluated," he said. He did not elaborate further on the reasons for and against, but Scholz's fear that the Leopards could cause Russian President Vladimir Putin to feel attacked by NATO, or that he use that fact as an excuse to escalate, is well known. the contest. "The idea that there is a close coalition of countries and that Germany is preventing it is false," stressed the new minister, who had sworn in his position before the German Parliament only one day before.

Washington came to Germany's rescue and also denied that Scholz had conditioned the delivery of the Leopard on the United States sending its equivalent main battle tank, the Abrams. "We can all do more" was the only phrase from the US Secretary of State, Lloyd Austin, that could be interpreted as a criticism of Berlin. In general, his speech was fully supportive of Germany and the effort he is making to send aid to Ukraine. “It is a reliable partner,” he stressed.

Military assistance to kyiv does not depend only on the shipment of a specific type of weapon, Austin pointed out, referring to the German Leopards, the true protagonists of the event despite the fact that the allies actually discussed other issues: how to continue transferring Western aid before start the Russian offensive that is expected in the spring. “We have a window of opportunity until then. It is not a long time, ”he warned.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is participating in the Ukraine Contact Group meeting, the so-called Ramstein format, insisted on that idea. He said it is "urgent" to increase support for kyiv to allow it to retake the occupied territory before the announced new Russian offensives take place. "Deliberations will continue," he answered questions about the Leopards, noting, like Austin, that Germany is among the largest donors of military aid to Ukraine with artillery systems, ammunition, anti-aircraft systems and, more recently, armored personnel carriers. like the Marders. "Germany is really a leader in supporting Ukraine in many, many areas."

Moscow threatens that the Ukraine war and its tension with the West will escalate if NATO helps kyiv with more weapons to defend against Russian aggression, while at the same time despising the impact of these on the battlefield, reports Javier G. Cuesta. "We consider all this an open provocation by the West and an increased stake in the conflict, which will inevitably lead to increased casualties and a dangerous escalation," said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, commenting on the Allied summit in Ramstein.

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