Poland has reiterated its willingness to send tanks to Ukraine without Germany’s consent, as pressure is growing on Berlin to supply it with the heavy weapons that Kyiv demands.
The Polish prime minister said his government would seek permission from Berlin to send German-made Leopard tanks to Poland Ukrainebut described this approval as “of secondary importance”.
“Even if we don’t get this approval…we will continue to transfer our tanks, along with others, to Ukraine,” said Mateusz Moravecki. He added, “The condition for us at the present time is to build at least a small coalition of countries.”
Berlin is under intense pressure to release military equipment after it failed to make a decision at the hotly anticipated International Defense Summit at the US military base Ramstein in southwest Germany on Friday.
German Foreign Minister Analina Berbock confirmed Sunday’s comment on her country won’t “get in the way” Poland’s dispatch of Leopard tanks to Ukraine caused some confusion in Berlin. For now, it remains unclear whether her remarks signal a shift in the government’s stance or if it is simply an attempt by the Green Party to correct Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s failed communication strategy.
Burbock did not repeat her comment when pressed about the matter Monday morning. “It is important that we as an international community do everything to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins. If Ukraine loses, it will cease to exist,” she told the press at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.
Berbock’s party colleague Robert Habeck, Germany’s economic affairs minister, had already indicated 10 days ago that his ministry would not prevent the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks from other European countries to Ukraine. “There is a difference between making a decision of your own free will and blocking the decision of others,” Habeck said at the time.
While the re-export of German-made tanks would have to be approved by the Economics Ministry, Habeck’s carte blanche for such decisions actually shifted decision-making to Schulz’s office.
It is hard to imagine the fact that Scholz would block Poland’s formal request to supply Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks from its reserves, which was made clear on Monday, not least because it would blow the chancellor’s position that the Allies’ position on such matters is more united. From media reports made it seem.
Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, on Sunday night dismissed reports of an open spat between Washington and Berlin on the issue of battle tanks. “Germany was not isolated,” Pistorius said of last Friday’s meeting at Ramstein Air Base.
Poland said it was ready to send 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine. In earlier comments, Morawiecki called Germany’s position unacceptable. He said: “I’m trying to weigh my words but I will say it frankly: Ukraine and Europe will win this war – with or without Germany.”
EU foreign ministers will discuss the matter in Brussels on Monday, but no immediate breakthrough is expected.
Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, said his country could provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks and spare parts, and/or train soldiers to drive and maintain tanks, but noted that the decision rested with Germany. We are still in the process of deciding what kind of package will be formed. We hope that it will be a situation in which countries like Germany can participate.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s most powerful allies in the Baltics have made it clear that they want Germany to move quickly. “Let me make it clear that Germany is an engine of Europe and it also imposes a special responsibility,” said Estonia’s foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu. He said Estonia spends 1% of its national income on military aid to Ukraine, and urged others to do the same. “We need to give the Ukrainian people a shield but also a sword to liberate the territory.”
His Lithuanian counterpart, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said a “very lively discussion” was taking place in Germany. “I hope that it will be as productive as in the past, for Germany to send tanks. Unfortunately, we who are waiting to send them will have to wait another day.”
Referring to Lithuania’s oppression under the Soviet Union, Landsbergis said “we have to defeat the fear of defeating Russia”, without naming specific countries. “If we don’t prepare for Russia losing the war, we are not serious about helping Ukraine win,” he said.
The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said he believed such weapons should be provided to the Ukrainian army, but described it as a decision of EU member states.
The EU is expected to approve another €500m (£440m) of arms funding for Ukraine through its European Peace Facility, pending legal proceedings at a later date. French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, said she had “no doubt that this is a decision we will make today”.