German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made an unannounced visit to the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday as Berlin is under growing pressure to provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks.
Berlin recently pledged to send Ukraine its Marder armored infantry fighting vehicle but has held off on sending the Leopards. When explaining his opposition to sending tanks to Ukraine back in September, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was trying to prevent a direct war between Russia and NATO.
But Scholz’s government has shown a willingness to escalate military aid, and Ukraine, as well as Berlin’s Western allies, are putting the screws on Germany to send the tanks. Baerbock met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba while in Kharkiv, a city not far from the Russian border.
Kuleba pressed Baerbock to send the tanks, saying “more people will die” the longer it takes. “I have no doubt that Ukraine will receive German Leopard tanks. I think the German government somewhere deep down understands that this decision will be made and the tanks will be transferred to Ukraine,” Kuleba said.
Baerbock vowed Germany would provide “further arms deliveries” but didn’t promise to send tanks. So far, Ukraine has not received any Western-made tanks, but the British are reportedly considering sending a few of their Challenger 2 tanks, which Ukrainian officials hope will inspire the US and Germany to do the same.
Other countries that have purchased Leopards are willing to provide them to Ukraine, but Germany still needs to sign off on the delivery. The Polish government said this week that it’s considering sending an undisclosed number of the German-made tanks to Kyiv and is in talks with allies on the process.