On Tuesday, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Berlin will send anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine in Germany’s first shipment of heavy equipment into the conflict zone.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had been coming under heavy criticism for hesitating to send heavy weapons into Ukraine. In an interview published Friday, Scholz said he was doing everything he can to prevent a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia due to the risk of World War III and nuclear war.
But Scholz’s policy was reversed as Lambrecht told a US-led conference in Germany that Berlin will send about 50 Gepard air-defense tanks to the Ukrainians. The German armed forces no longer use the Gepard, but the manufacturer has a stockpile of the tanks.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomed the German decision to send the Gepards, which are known as Cheetahs in English. “Those systems will provide real capability for Ukraine,” Austin said.
Germany has also announced a plan to help Eastern European countries replenish their stocks of tanks if they send Soviet-made equipment into Ukraine. Slovenia is reportedly planning to send Soviet-designed T-72 tanks into Ukraine in exchange for German-made Marder tanks and Fox wheeled tanks.
Poland and the UK announced a similar deal on Tuesday that saw Warsaw deliver T-72s to Ukraine. In exchange, the UK will “backfill” Poland’s needs with British-made Challenger 2 tanks.