Germany approves long-awaited delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as US finalizes plans to send Abrams



CNN

Germany has confirmed it will send a group of long-sought Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as a sign of support for Kyiv, which the United States is expected to reciprocate.

Chancellor Olaf Schulz’s announcement on Wednesday, along with an anticipated US decision to send about 30 M-1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, marks a milestone after weeks of intense pressure from some NATO allies on Berlin.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebstreit said that Schultz had told his cabinet of his decision that Germany would further strengthen its military support for Ukraine. He said: “The federal government has decided to provide Leopard 2 tanks to the armed forces of Ukraine.”

This is the result of intensive consultations with Germany’s closest European and international partners. This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine in the best possible way.

The announcement came a day after CNN reported that the Biden administration was finalizing plans to send US tanks to Ukraine, a move that appeared to break a diplomatic standoff with the Schulz administration. German officials had openly stated that they would only send their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if the U.S. also sent Abrams tanks, despite U.S. officials repeatedly insisting that Abrams tanks are too complex and difficult to maintain.

The dispute over whether the Germans would send the Panthers to support Ukraine threatened to show some of the first cracks in the united West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Schulz’s announcement and news that Washington is preparing its shipment appear to indicate that the United States and its allies are still working to support President Volodymyr Zelensky and his nation’s fight against the Russians.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Keith Boldwan on “This Hour” that the German and American decisions were “important announcements” and that he “welcomes the leadership of the United States in making them happen.”

“It significantly enhances their combat capabilities,” Stoltenberg said of the tanks’ impact on the Ukrainian military.

The government’s statement said that the Germans aim to collect two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine. As a first step, Berlin provides a company of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from Bundeswehr stock, and training of Ukrainian crews begins quickly in Germany. In addition to training, this package will also include logistics, ammunition and system maintenance.

German Defense Minister said Leopard tanks can be operational in Ukraine in three months. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Boris Pistorius said that the training will take place first, then the tanks will be sent to the east.

A spokesman for the German Ministry of Defense previously told CNN that the German army has 320 Leopard 2 tanks, but would not disclose how many are ready for battle.

Germany will also allow other countries to export the battle tank. On Tuesday, Poland officially requested permission from Germany to transfer some German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Several European countries also own a number of Panthers, and Poland has made efforts to re-export them to Ukraine, even though Germany was not on board.

After announcing the news in the German parliament, Schultz said that he had spoken with Zelensky before coming to the parliament.

During his speech, the German leader said that Germany, along with the United States and England, have sent the most weapon systems to Ukraine and emphasized that his country will be at the forefront of supporting Ukraine.

Sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine will provide Kiev forces with a modern and powerful military vehicle ahead of a possible Russian spring invasion. It would also be a blow to the Kremlin, which has seen a growing campaign to equip Ukrainian troops with high-tech combat systems as Russia nears its one-year border.

Germany had initially resisted mounting pressure from the West to send some tanks to Ukraine, with Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, repeatedly asking for more time and insisting that the move would have both supporters and detractors for Berlin.

The US decision to provide Ukraine with Abrams tanks represents a sudden reversal of its previously stated position.

While the Biden administration has never completely taken the possibility of carrying American tanks off the table, American officials publicly stated last week that now is not the right time to send the 70-ton M-1 Abrams tanks because they are expensive and require They have a significant cost. Amount of training for operations

Instead, tanks have been repeatedly floated as a long-term option — even as critics say the timing is right, as Ukraine prepares for Russia to mobilize more troops and launch a new offensive. Zelensky has consistently asked Western allies for modern tanks as his country prepares to prepare for a major Russian counteroffensive in the spring.

John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, said the decision to send U.S.-made Abrams tanks rested on an “iterative process” that assessed Ukraine’s needs, the assistance that would be appropriate for the U.S. to send, and technical considerations related to the operation and maintenance of the tanks. . He said on Tuesday evening

“We’ve talked about the fact that the Abrams is an incredibly capable system, but it’s a very expensive system to operate and maintain,” Kirby told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on AC360.

He added: “It has a jet engine – it doesn’t mean that the Ukrainians can’t learn it, it just means that we have to put all of that into any system that we potentially provide them with. give.” .

Sky News Arabic was the first to report the news that the US was considering sending tanks.

Britain set a precedent for providing main battle tanks to Ukraine last week after it pledged to send 14 British Army Challenger 2 tanks to Kiev. The deal crossed what had previously been seen as a red line for the US and its European allies.

Ukrainian officials have consistently called on their Western allies to provide them with modern battle tanks – to be used not only to defend their current positions, but also to advance the battle against the enemy in the coming months. Ukrainians fear that a second Russian attack will begin within two months.

Although Ukraine has stockpiles of Soviet-era tanks, modern Western tanks offer a greater level of speed and agility. In particular, the relatively low maintenance requirements of the Leopard compared to other models led experts to believe that the tanks could quickly help Ukraine on the battlefield.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed Germany’s move as the “right decision” following Wednesday’s announcement.

The right decision of NATO allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Together with the Challenger 2, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower. “Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secure lasting peace,” Sonak wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff welcomed the news, stressing that the country needs “a lot” of Leopard tanks. Andrey Yermak wrote in Telegram: The first step of the tank was taken. Next is “Tank Coalition”. “We need a lot of leopards.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki praised German Chancellor Schulz for his decision. “Thank you Olaf Schulz. The decision to send Panthers to Ukraine is a big step towards stopping Russia. Morawiski wrote on Twitter: “Together we are stronger.”

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