PARIS (Reuters) – Germany’s foreign minister said on Sunday her government would not stand in Poland’s way if it wanted to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a possible breakthrough in how it wants tanks in its fight against a Russian invasion. .
Ukrainian officials have been calling for Western allies to provide them with modern German tanks for months — but Berlin has so far refrained from sending them or allowing other NATO countries to do so.
Asked what would happen if Poland went ahead and sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Annalena Berbock told France’s LCI television: “At the moment, the question has not been asked, but if we are asked, we will not stand in the way.”
Her comments appeared to go further than German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s remarks at a summit in Paris earlier on Sunday that all decisions on arms deliveries would be made in coordination with allies, including the United States.
Germany was hard pressed to let the Panthers go to Ukraine. But Scholz’s Social Democratic Party is traditionally suspicious of military involvement and fears sudden moves that could cause Moscow to escalate further.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Sunday that he expected a decision on the tanks soon, though he continued to note a note of caution.
Germany will not make a hasty decision because the government has many factors to consider, including the consequences at home for the security of the German population, Pistorius told ARD TV.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his longstanding appeal to tanks in his meeting on Sunday with former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who was visiting Kyiv.
“We need more weapons: tanks, planes and long-range missiles,” Zelensky said, according to a statement on his website.
Ukraine says the Western armored battle tanks will give Ukrainian ground forces more mobility and protection ahead of a new Russian offensive that Kyiv expects in the near future. It would also help Ukraine regain some of the territory that had fallen to Russia.
After the Paris summit, Schultz said at a press conference that all arms shipments to Ukraine so far have been made in close coordination with Western partners. “We will do that in the future,” he said.
Speaking at the same press conference, French President Emmanuel Macron said he did not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine.
Macron said that sending tanks must not escalate the situation, must take into account the time to train Ukrainians to be effective, and must not endanger France’s security.
“Regarding Leclercs, I asked the army minister to work on it, but nothing has been ruled out,” Macron said, adding that the move must be coordinated with allies such as Germany in the coming days and weeks.
German sources told Reuters that they would allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to aid in its defense against Russia if the United States agreed to send its own tanks. But US officials said President Joe Biden’s administration is not ready to send its own tanks, including the M1 Abrams.
A Kremlin spokesman said on Friday that Western countries providing Ukraine with additional tanks would not change the course of the conflict and would add to the problems of the Ukrainian people.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Lee Thomas); Additional reporting by Tom Sims, Lydia Kelly and Hamira Pamuk. Editing by David Holmes, Andrew Heavens and Diane Craft
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