Published On: Fri, Jan 13th, 2023

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After Poland pledged a company of German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine on Wednesday, Germany’s vice-Chancellor has called on his Government not to “stand in the way” of the deal, since it requires approval from Berlin.

Poland has 249 Leopard 2 tanks, acquired during the 2000s, but because the licence to the combat vehicles belongs to Germany, they cannot be sent to another country without explicit permission from Berlin.

Poland and France have both put pressure this week on Germany to allow for the Leopard 2 tanks to be released, but a German government spokesman said on January 9 the country had no plans to supply Ukraine with the offensive vehicles.

German vice-Chancellor and economy minister Robert Habeck said on Thursday, however, that Berlin “should not stand in the way” of Poland’s decision to supply the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

“There is a difference between making a decision for yourself and preventing others from making a decision,” Mr Habeck said, as quoted by German newspaper Die Welt.

“Accordingly, Germany should not stand in the way when other countries make decisions to support Ukraine, regardless of what decision Germany makes.”

The lack of broader coordination among European partners has been consistently presented by Germany as the reason for not taking the lead with delivering Leopards, as opposed to any form of hesitancy.

Ukraine has repeatedly requested to be provided with Leopard 2 tanks operated by several European countries, including Germany, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands, and Spain.

They could prove vital to battlefield advances in Ukraine after a Western official said earlier this week that both Armed Forces in the conflict zones are currently too “finely balanced” to make any significant gains.

The NATO main battle tanks are vastly superior to Russia’s T-72 and T-90 tanks, with longer gun ranges and superior defences, but both Germany and the USA, with regard to their similarly-formidable Abrams M1 tanks, have been hesitant to send them to Ukraine over fears Russian forces could capture one of their vehicles and harvest the armour for state secrets.

If Russia was able to decipher how the unique armour on these tanks is made, they could subsequently engineer their own versions, which would likely be available for combat use in 2024.

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