Germany won’t send Ukraine tanks as US pushes allies for help

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Germany won't send Ukraine tanks as US pushes allies for help

WASHINGTON — Germany is holding off on sending critically needed tanks to Ukraine despite calls from the US and other Western allies to do so, Berlin’s defense minister said Friday.

“We all cannot say today when a decision will be made and what that decision will be on [sending] Leopard tanks,” Boris Pistorius told reporters at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he joined a high-stakes meeting of defense officials from more than 50 nations.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other senior US officials have lobbied Germany to follow the United Kingdom’s lead by sending tanks to assist Ukraine’s forces as they gear up for a fresh Russian offensive predicted this spring.

“We have a window of opportunity here, you know, between now and the spring … whenever they commence their operation,” Austin said. “And that’s not a long time. And we have to pull together the right capabilities.”

The US and other European allies have urged the Germans to send aid.
Germany is holding off on sending critically needed tanks to Ukraine.
dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Despite Ukraine’s repeated asks for tanks, only the UK has responded, announcing last weekend that it would send 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks. Tanks also were not included in the $2.5 billion US military aid package unveiled Thursday, though that assistance did include 90 Stryker combat vehicles and 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles for infantry.

While the US contribution of the “nimble” Bradleys are expected to help Ukrainian troops maneuver quickly through the flat, rolling plains of the eastern Donbas region, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby admitted Friday they don’t have the same lethality as tanks.

“Tanks also provide an ability to move efficiently around a battlefield, but of course, they have much more firepower,” Kirby told reporters at the White House. “So it’s perfectly understandable why {Ukraine] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky — facing what he’s facing in the Donbas and expecting to face those same threats going forward in coming weeks – would want additional tanks.”

Not only has Berlin refused to send its Leopard tanks, but it has also reportedly barred any other country, such as Poland, with German-made tanks in their inventories from sending them to Ukraine — unless the US sends tanks as well.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other senior US officials have lobbied Germany to follow the United Kingdom’s lead by sending tanks.
AFP via Getty Images

However, Pistorius on Friday denied reports of a link between Germany’s decision not to send tanks and Washington’s announcement that it would not include M1 Abrams tanks in its aid package.

Unlike the British Challengers and German Leopards, which use diesel fuel, the M1 Abrams runs on jet fuel. That difference has prevented the US from sending the added weaponry, with Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh saying Thursday it would require more upkeep.

“The Abrams are more of a sustainment issue,” she told reporters. “I mean, this is a tank that requires jet fuel, whereas the Leopard and the Challenger — it’s a different engine, they require diesel. It’s a little bit easier to maintain.”

A view of Marder infantry fighting vehicles to be sent to Ukraine.
The US has sent Ukraine roughly $26.7 billion in military aid from its stock and through weapons purchases with congressionally approved funds.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Asked Friday if the US would consider sending Ukraine a small number of Abrams tanks to encourage Germany to send Leopards, Austin said the Pentagon only considers sending weapons as a way to “provide capability” rather than as a diplomatic ploy.

“We don’t do things or employ capabilities as a notion, you know, for anything other than providing credible combat capability,” he said. “And that’s where our focus will be in the future.”

With the latest package, the US has sent Ukraine roughly $26.7 billion in military aid from its own stock and through weapons purchases with congressionally approved funds since Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24, 2022.

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