Poland requests German approval to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine
By Rob Picheta and Antonia Mortensen, CNN
Poland has formally asked for approval from Germany to transfer some of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, its defense minister said Tuesday, raising the pressure on Berlin to respond to Kyiv’s pleas and send its own shipment of vehicles into the battlefield.
“The Germans have already received our request for consent to the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine,” Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter. “I also appeal to the German side to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks. This is our common cause, because it is about the security of the whole of Europe!”
The German government confirmed receipt of the request; it would not say how quickly it would come to a decision, but emphasized that the process would take place with “necessary urgency.”
Germany has so far resisted calls from Poland, the US and a handful of other NATO countries to transfer the tanks into Ukraine, or authorize other countries to send some of their Leopards to Kyiv.
That position has led to a weekslong spat between German and Polish leaders, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accusing Germany of “wasting time” by failing to come to a decision.
“We are preparing our decision and it will come very soon,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday, adding that if the decision is to send the tanks, Germany would be able to “act very soon.”
Poland, along with a number of European countries, has its own batch of Leopards which it is seeking to re-export. By rule Berlin must approve such a move, but the German government has indicated it will not stand in the way of Poland sending Leopards across its eastern border into Ukraine.
Morawiecki said Monday that a “condition” for Poland was the assembly of a “small coalition” of states willing to send battle tanks to Ukraine. But foreign minister Zbigniew Rau later told journalists that Warsaw was “determined” to send tanks regardless of the decisions of other countries.
The Leopard 2 is seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces as the war with Russia approaches the one-year mark.
In total, there are around 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks spread across Europe, at different levels of readiness.
Each tank contains a 120mm Smoothbore gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun; it can reach speeds of 70 km per hour, or 50 kmp/h when off-road, making maneuverability one of its key features. And there is all-around protection from threats, including improvised explosive devices, mines or anti-tank fire, according to its German manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly pleaded for countries to stop squabbling over whether to send the tanks.
“We have talked hundreds of times about the shortage of weapons. We cannot go only on motivation,” he said during a virtual appearance at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last week.
In an apparent swipe at Germany’s stalling, Zelensky added: “There are moments when there is no need to hesitate. When people say — I’ll give you tanks if someone else does.”
Russia has meanwhile sought to threaten Germany as it deliberates. Asked during a regular press briefing about Moscow’s reaction if Berlin approved sending tanks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the relations between the two countries “are already at a fairly low point,” adding there is currently “no substantive dialogue with Germany or with other EU and NATO countries.”
“Of course, such deliveries do not bode well for the future of relations. They will leave an imminent trace,” Peskov said.
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CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed reporting.