Germany’s vice chancellor said Thursday that Berlin won’t stand in the way of Poland sending German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a move that would significantly escalate Western military aid for Kyiv and risk provoking Moscow.
“There is a difference between making a decision for oneself and preventing the decision of others,” Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said. “And accordingly, Germany should not stand in the way when other countries make decisions to support Ukraine, regardless of what decision Germany makes.”
Habeck’s comments come after Polish President Andrzej Duda said his government decided to send about 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a move that needs Berlin’s approval. It’s still not clear if Warsaw has formally made the request of Germany. Poland could be waiting for other countries to send tanks as Duda said he wants to transfer them as part of an “international coalition.”
The UK is also preparing to provide Ukraine with its main battle tank, the Challenger 2. Financial Times reported Thursday that British officials said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ordered his Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to “work with partners” in the coming weeks to go “further and faster with our support for Ukraine, including the provision of tanks.”
Whether it’s the Challenger 2 to the Leopard 2, whichever makes it to Ukraine first would be the first Western-made tank provided to Kyiv. Ukrainian officials are looking for a lot and say they need at least 300 if they want a chance of pushing Russia out of the territory it has captured.
There’s currently no sign that the US is planning to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, but the White House said Thursday that President Biden “fully supports” the decision of Britain and Poland to provide Kyiv with their tanks.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was previously strongly opposed to arming Ukraine with tanks. Explaining his opposition in September, the German leader said he was trying to avoid a direct war between NATO and Russia.