Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Monday that Warsaw will formally seek permission from Berlin to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
“We will apply for such permission,” Morawiecki said. He added that if Berlin doesn’t grant permission, Warsaw would still try to send the tanks as part of a “small coalition” of countries.
Poland has said it’s willing to provide about 14 of the Leopard 2 tanks, far short of the several hundred Ukrainian military officials say they need. Leopards are operated by multiple European countries, and others have signaled their willingness to send the tanks, including Finland.
While Germany has been under heavy criticism for being hesitant to send its own Leopard tanks to Ukraine and not being enthusiastic about other countries that are willing to do so, no countries have formally asked Berlin to sign off on the delivery.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has argued against sending heavy tanks to Ukraine over fears of escalating the war into a direct clash between Russia and NATO, but other German officials have said they won’t get in the way if other countries want to send their Leopards.
“At the moment, the question has not been asked, but if we were asked, we would not stand in the way,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Sunday when asked what would happen if Poland decided to send the German-made tanks.
However, the following day, a spokesman for the German government signaled Baerbock was not speaking for Berlin, saying there are “agreed procedures” on how to send the tanks. According to POLITICO, Germany’s Security Council would need to agree on approving the deliveries.
German spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said the government shouldn’t rush such a major decision. “These are hard questions of life and death,” he said. “We have to ask what this means for the defense of our own country.”
Germany’s caution has drawn much criticism from Ukraine and hawks in the West. Demonstrating the anger, the editorial board of The Washington Post published an article on Saturday titled, “Germany is refusing to send tanks to Ukraine. Biden cannot let this stand.”
So far, Ukraine has only secured 14 Western-made main battle tanks, the Challenger 2 from Britain. Sending heavy battle tanks marks a significant escalation of Western military aid, and Russian officials have warned strongly against the move and other recent escalations from the West.