Germany won’t stop Poland from sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Germany won't stop Poland from sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine

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BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has indicated that Berlin would not block Warsaw from sending tanks to Ukraine, as pressure mounts on Europe’s largest economy to greenlight a delivery.

“If we were asked, we would not stand in the way,” she told France’s LCI TV on Sunday night.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Monday that Poland would ask Germany for that permission, according to the Associated Press.

Berlin has so far stalled on unlocking a package of German-made Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine, saying it wants to proceed with caution amid fears it will be seen as a “participant” in the war. Since Germany manufactures the Leopard 2, one of Europe’s most advanced battle tanks, its permission is required for the tank to be reexported by any of the more than a dozen countries that use it.

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European nations including Poland had been hoping that a deal would be struck at a meeting in Ramstein, Germany, last week, but it ended with no agreement on the tanks. As Germany has dragged its feet, Morawiecki has threatened to send the 14 Leopard 2s that Warsaw had promised, with or without Berlin’s approval.

Ukraine has said it desperately needs the tanks as it faces a brutal war of attrition waged by Russian forces and Wagner Group mercenaries on its eastern front lines.

If Germany continues to stall, Poland will work with other allies to build a “smaller coalition” to send the tanks, Morawiecki told the Polish Press Agency.

“We will not passively watch Ukraine bleed to death,” he said. “The Ukrainian people are fighting for our freedom.”

The decision to support the Ukrainian military is justified both “politically and morally,” he added. “I hope Germany will understand this sooner rather than later.”

In her comments on Sunday, Baerbock said Poland has not yet submitted a formal request to Germany to reexport tanks. Polish officials have said they still hope that agreement on a broader package can be reached.

Speaking to ARD television on Sunday, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius reiterated that Germany does not want to rush a decision but said one would be made “soon.”

The United Kingdom has pledged its British-made Challenger 2 battle tanks, while France is also mulling a delivery. Speaking about the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks, one of the main tanks used by France, President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday at a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that “nothing is excluded.”

But he added a condition: that a tank transfer is “not escalatory” and doesn’t weaken France’s own defense capabilities.

Over the course of the war, Germany has been cautious not to be seen as a leader when it comes to arms deliveries. It said earlier this month that sending its Leopards would depend on Washington sending its M1 Abrams tanks, which Pentagon officials have said are not the best fit for Ukraine in terms of operability and would take a long time to arrive. But Berlin appeared to drop that position last week as Pistorius said there was no “linkage” between the Leopards and the U.S. tanks.

Rick Noack in Paris contributed to this report.

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