The Panzer Pulled East


Thomas Owens, Staff

Germany’s foreign minister Anna Baerbock has said she “would not stand in the way” of Poland if they were to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.  

Ukraine has called on the West to provide the German-made tanks which they say will help them defeat Russia. But Germany is yet to provide the vehicles, and export laws prevent other countries from sending theirs. On Sunday, Ms. Baerbock said Poland had not yet asked for export permission. 

“For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked, we would not stand in the way,” she told France’s LCI TV on Sunday. 

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday the government would request authorization from Berlin. But said Poland would send the tanks to Ukraine, even if it was not granted. 

“Even if, ultimately we did not get this consent, within the framework of a small coalition…. we will still hand over our tanks, together with others, to Ukraine,”  Morawiecki said. 

A spokesperson for the German government said it had not yet received any requests to authorize the delivery of the Leopard 2 tanks on Monday. 

Last week, Morawiecki said the country was ready to provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv. 

On Monday, the Polish president’s foreign policy advisor, Marcin Przydacz, said he welcomed  Baerbock’s announcement, but would prefer to hear Germany’s position confirmed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. 

“It turns out that through talks and diplomatic actions, Poland is able to change the German position,”  Przydacz told Polish Radio. 

 However, Warsaw ultimately wants Berlin and Nato allies to also send their own Leopards because government officials admit that 14 tanks will have a limited impact on Ukraine’s fighting capacity. 

Now what is Leopard 2 exactly? well the tank was a German design based off the infamous King tiger II, a German panzer known for its devastating power against American Shermans and Soviet T-34s and T-34/85s. With this astonishing basis the Leopard 2 was unveiled in 1979 taking part in the Afghan war and the Syrian civil war being used to the modern day unlike the King Tiger II which was used for only a year.  

Equipped with MG’s and some variants with multiple defense systems surpassing the current T-90 tanks used by Russian forces making Zelensky’s order of 300 brings chances of Russian defeat to higher levels.  

What makes them particularly attractive to Kyiv is that nearly two-thirds of all Leopards produced are still in Europe. So physically getting Leopards to fight is relatively straightforward. That also makes maintenance and repair, which are vital aspects of any weapons system, easier too. 

It is worth remembering in all this that Germany is giving Ukraine vital air defense systems, such as IRIS-T and Patriot surface-to-air missiles, as well as armored personnel carriers. 

Mr. Scholz has traditionally been skeptical of German involvement in military conflicts and concerned about triggering an escalation from Russia. 

The chancellor met with French president Emmanuel Macron at the weekend to reiterate the two countries’ post-war alliance. 

France has already committed to sending light tanks to Ukraine, and Macron suggested it was possible that French-made Leclerc heavy tanks may also be delivered to Ukraine. 

Other countries have committed to sending tanks, including the UK, which will send 14 Challenger 2s.