Ukraine urges Germany to 'think faster' about supplying battle tanks

Crunch meeting over sending Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv ends in stalemate

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not yet made a decision on whether to supply Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. AP
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Ukraine has urged Germany and its European allies to “think faster” about approving Kyiv's request for powerful battle tanks.

On Saturday, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, urged the West to step up military support for the country in its war against Russia.

A crunch meeting of senior western officials on Friday, at the Ramstein Air Base, over the supply of Leopard 2 tanks ended in stalemate as German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius failed to commit to sending them to Ukraine.

“You'll help Ukraine with the necessary weapons anyway and realise that there is no other option to end the war except the defeat of Russia,” Mr Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

“But today's indecision is killing more of our people. Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster.”

Earlier this week, Ukraine's partners pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in new military aid but were unable to agree on sending the German-made tanks to Kyiv.

Germany has become one of Ukraine’s leading weapons suppliers in the 11 months since Russia’s invasion, but Chancellor Olaf Scholz also has gained a reputation for hesitating to take each new step — generating impatience among allies.

Berlin’s perceived foot-dragging, has been due to concerns surrounding a possible escalation in the war.

On Friday, Germany ordered a review of its Leopard stocks in preparation for a possible green light but it still failed to commit to a firm decision.

Mr Pistorius rejected the suggestion that Germany was standing in the way but said, “we have to balance all the pros and contras before we decide things like that.”

Last week Mr Scholz said he would not be rushed into important security decisions by “excited comments”.

Germany indecision on whether to send its main battle tanks to Kyiv has been described as a “huge disappointment” by Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk.

In an interview on Friday with CNN, Mr Melnyk praised the UK’s recent decision to pledge its Challenger 2 tanks, adding he hoped the move might prompt other countries to follow suit.

“That might be a trigger, hopefully, for other countries but unfortunately not for Germany yet,” he said.

The foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have also urged Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

“Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard,” Lithuania’s Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Twitter.

On Friday, Mr Scholz's spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, denied reports that Germany had insisted it would only deliver Leopard tanks if the US sends its own Abrams tanks.

He rejected the notion that Berlin is trailing others and insisted it is taking the right approach.

“These are not easy decisions, and they need to be well-weighed,” he said. “And this is about them being sustainable, that all can go along with them and stand behind them — and part of a leadership performance is keeping an alliance together.”

Updated: January 21, 2023, 12:45 PM