The German Chancellor came under pressure at home and abroad to send Ukrainian tanks.
The debate over supplying Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine was something of a test for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with some German politicians and European leaders claiming that Berlin was not only missing a chance for leadership in Europe, but also embarrassing his own allies.
In the debate, which sparked a wave of memes under the hashtag #FreetheLeopards, Mr Scholz stuck to a policy of waiting to act until Germany’s partners did, particularly Washington. .
This position stems in part from Germany’s deep-rooted reluctance after World War II to be seen as taking a forward-thinking stance on military matters. German society has embraced a pacifist foreign policy for decades, and recent surveys show that around half of Germans are reluctant to send tanks to Ukraine.
But even some members of Scholz’s three-party coalition government grew impatient.
“The Chancellor made the right decision to supply Leopard 2s to Ukraine,” said Anton Hofreiter, a Green Party MP who was one of Mr Scholz’s fiercest critics in his government. “The next steps must be closely coordinated with our allies and the lost confidence rebuilt.”
Now the question turns to how many tanks are available and when may be their delivery. The government announced that there would be an initial delivery of 14 tanks, but it did not specify the timing of the move. And while the first battalion will come directly from the German army, the source of the second battalion was not immediately clear.
Boris Pistorius, German Defense Minister, said last week that he had ordered an investigation into the availability and condition of battle tanks in Germany, not only those belonging to the army, but also those available in the trade. On Wednesday, he said that would include reviewing stocks and conditions of the Leopard I, the predecessor to the Leopard 2.
Earlier this month, Armin Papperger, the boss of German arms maker Rheinmetall, said his company would need a year to refurbish the 22 second-hand Leopard 2 tanks it has in stock. It is believed that Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, the tank’s builder, has a few used Leopard 2s in stock, but it’s unclear how many or how long it would take to get them into combat shape.
Research by the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper suggests that Germany could supply 10 to 15 Leopard tanks by the end of this year if ordered immediately.
Germany could also send more tanks to Ukraine if the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which gave their Soviet-style tanks to Kyiv in return for promises of Leopard 2s, agreed to delay their own deliveries in favor of the EU. Ukraine.
It would not be the first time that such a plan has been drawn up. Last year, Egypt agreed to postpone receipt of a German-made Iris-T air defense system so that Ukraine could get one first. The system now protects Ukrainian airspace. Even Germany hasn’t received any yet.
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