BERLIN – A Germany approved the shipment of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, as reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel and broadcaster NTV this Tuesday, 24. The decision comes after a period of reluctance by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and pressure from NATO allied countries. The official confirmation should happen this Wednesday, 25, as published by the newspaper Bild.
According to Scholz government sources, the plan is to send 14 tanks together with other partners, which means that Berlin would have authorized the export of tanks that had been sold to the armies of Finland, Sweden and Poland. Andri Yermak, chief of staff for Ukrainian President Volodmir Zelensky, hailed the Germans’ decision. “This will be a real blow of democracy against autocracy,” Yermak wrote in Telegram.
The Chancellor’s decision was taken after the U.S agree to send tanks M-1 Abrams, since the German reluctance was, in part, in the search for a coordinated action with allied countries. According to The New York Timesciting advisers to the American president, Joe Biden, the announcement of the shipment will be made this Wednesday, 25.
The German-made tanks are pointed out by military strategists as the best option to support Kiev’s land actions due to the fact that they are available in greater numbers on European soil and because they are powered by diesel – while the American Abrahms use aviation fuel, which would require a more complex logistic line to keep them in operation.
For months Ukraine has been requesting the deployment of war tanks with the intention of containing the advances of Russian troops and expelling them from its territory. Until then, the West was reluctant to send them, restricting itself to shipments of other equipment, such as weapons, ammunition, missile launchers and air defense systems, but Ukrainian pressure grew after Russian defeats in the months leading up to the winter of the Northern Hemisphere and the war approaching one year.
The first countries to announce the sending of war tanks and armored vehicles to the Ukrainians were the UK and the U.S. The British pledged to send 14 Challenger tanks. The US has announced the Strykers and Bradley armored vehicles, which serve as troop transports, and is beginning to discuss the deployment of M-1 Abrams tanks.
According to US officials, Abrams’ shipment, first reported in the The Wall Street Journal, began to be discussed after Germany’s reluctance to send the Leopard 2, exposed in debates between the heads of NATO. German officials privately insisted that they would only send the tanks if the United States agreed to send its own M-1 Abrams tanks. Publicly, American and German officials denied that the two issues were linked.
Germany’s last public statement on the deployment of tanks was made by German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius last week. Pistorius said no deal had been closed, but that the country would make a decision “as soon as possible”.
Pressure also grew from the countries that have the Leopard 2 in their arsenal, but that needed Berlin’s authorization because it was German-made equipment. This is the case with Poland, which made an official request to send the tanks this Tuesday. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Annalena Baerbock, had already informed on Sunday, 22, that she would not try to prevent Poland from supplying them to Ukraine.
The tanks reinforce the offensive power of the Ukrainian military at a time when the war is about to enter a new phase of attacks, due to the end of winter. NATO’s assessment is that they need to be deployed now, before Russia starts new offensives against Ukraine.
According to military experts, Leopard tanks would be decisive for the Ukrainians’ success this year. The equipment carries four occupants and can fire at targets that are up to 5 kilometers away. The tank has a weight of around 60 tons and can reach a speed close to 70 km/h, having the capacity to cross flooded areas and rivers up to four meters deep, in addition to having a periscope.
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Germany would have more than 350 active Leopard 2 tanks, ready to enter service, and another 200 stored, according to the Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki. However, a question mark among analysts is whether the quantity is enough to contain the Russians. “German and British tanks are individually better than Russian tanks. But does this quality surpass Moscow’s numbers?” asked Eric Gomez, director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.
“The pace of casualties at the front and the speed with which military equipment is being destroyed is such that it is questionable how long these tanks will last on the battlefield,” he added. /WITH INFORMATION FROM EFE, NYT AND W.POST AND COLLABORATION BY RENATO VASCONCELOS