Lloyd Austin in Berlin to Push German Government on Tanks

Chancellor Scholz is hesitant to sign off on the delivery of the German-made Leopard 2 tank to Ukraine

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with his new German counterpart in Berlin on Thursday as there is mounting pressure on Germany to sign off on the delivery of tanks to Ukraine.

Poland and Finland are ready to send their German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, but the delivery requires Berlin’s approval, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is hesitant to grant it.

According to multiple reports, Scholz said Wednesday that he would only sign off on sending the Leopard if the US is willing to send M1 Abrams tanks, but the Pentagon said this week the US is “not there yet,” citing the difficulty in maintaining the Abrams. However, Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, said he wasn’t “aware of any such stipulation” when asked about Scholz’s comments.

The US justification for sending the Leopards instead is that there are multiple countries that have fleets of the German-made tanks, making spare parts more available to Kyiv. A Pentagon official told The Washington Post that Austin is hoping to change Berlin’s mind on sending the Leopards.

Austin met with Pistorius, who was sworn in as Germany’s defense minister earlier in the day. He replaced Christine Lambrecht, who resigned after a series of public relations issues that drew heavy domestic criticism.

A decision by Berlin is expected to be made by Friday when Austin is scheduled to chair a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Scholz has previously said he wouldn’t send tanks to Ukraine because he was trying to avoid a direct clash between Russia and NATO.

But the US appears to be much less concerned about escalation as it plans to announce a new massive aid package worth $2.5 billion. While the US hasn’t committed to sending its Abrams tanks to Ukraine, it has pledged to send Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Germany is sending a similar vehicle, known as the Marder.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.