On Friday, Western troops agreed to extend their military assistance to Ukraine, although Germany resisted delivering more EU tanks despite repeated requests from Kyiv and other allies.
After a meeting with several defense officials from around the world, including U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, at Germany's Ramstein Air Base, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said, "Today, we can all not yet say when a decision will be made about Leopard and what this decision will look like."
He emphasized that if and when a decision about Leopard 2 tanks is made, he expects Berlin to be ready. To prepare for a potential decision, he continued by saying that he had ordered an examination of the German Leopard 2 stockpiles on Friday, both in military and domestic industrial stocks.
This is a novel kind of measure we would choose, so we have to be careful, he said. "We are not hesitating, we are just carefully weighing all the pros and cons — we are not talking just about delivering anything to anybody, this is a new kind of measure we would choose, so we have to be careful," he said.
After Christine Lambrecht abruptly resigned from her position due to heavy local and international criticism of her capacity to oversee Berlin's involvement in the war in Ukraine, Pistorius has only been in office for two days.
Ukraine has often requested combat tanks from its friends in the West, with German Leopard 2 vehicles garnering the most attention. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, has demanded that any shipments of Western tanks must arrive before another Russian assault.
Berlin officials seem to worry that delivering the weapons may intensify tensions with Moscow, which has already accused the West of waging a "proxy war" against Russia in Ukraine. The Kremlin said that Western tanks for Ukraine would "change nothing" and would not prevent Russia from attaining its objectives in the hours before the conference, according to Reuters.
Pistorius stressed that Germany is not the only country delaying a decision on tank supply:
"I must admit that there is certainly no unified viewpoint. There is no closed coalition, contrary to what has sometimes been implied, and Germany does not obstruct it. Many friends assert that we share the viewpoint that I reiterated here today; there are excellent arguments in favor of and against the delivery," he noted.
Ukraine will soon get 50 anti-aircraft Cheetah systems from Germany. Berlin and Washington reached an agreement earlier this month on a $3 billion assistance package for Ukraine, as part of which Germany would send 40 Marder infantry combat vehicles and a Patriot missile defense system to Kyiv. In exchange, the United States will provide 50 Bradley combat vehicles.
The next military mobilization of our common adversary must be outpaced by global mobilization, Zelenskyy stated via video conference on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Austin announced this before the Ramstein summit, emphasizing the significance of "nations of goodwill" concentrating on "winning today's war and the challenges to come." On Friday, the United States urged allies to "dig deeper" in response to the conflict in Ukraine.
The Baltic nations, Poland, and Finland gave the go-ahead for their own Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine. The Polish government voiced considerable annoyance that Berlin had not yet done the same.
According to the report, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday, "Permission is of minor concern here; we will either receive this consent soon, or we will do what is required."
"The capacity of Ukraine to preserve its independence may rely on Germany, but not just Germany, to contribute their new tanks, contemporary heavy armaments," the German foreign minister said.
The United Kingdom announced that it will deploy 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine on Saturday, making it the first nation to do so.
Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, said on Thursday that sending tanks to Ukraine was "a delicate choice."
"I do agree that there is a need for sending tanks to Ukraine. Taking the choice in concert with others, such as our allies in the U.S., is also a viable option, Rutte said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
He continued by expressing his "pretty hopeful optimism" that things "may get to a landing position."