Davos 2023: Scholz pressed by EU partners over tanks for Ukraine

Poland's President Andrzej Duda (left) and Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda during the World Economic Forum session, In Defence Of Europe, on Tuesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

DAVOS, Switzerland - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who named a new defence minister on Tuesday, faced increased pressure from several European Union partners to authorise the export of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

The issue featured prominently in discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos where Mr Scholz is a star speaker on Wednesday, and comes ahead of a crunch defence ministers’ meeting on Friday.

Leaders and ministers from Finland, Lithuania and Poland all urged him to quickly authorise sending the advanced Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv.

Polish President Andrzej Duda reminded listeners on Tuesday that Poland had offered to send around 14 German-made Leopards but needed Berlin’s approval to export them.

“We hope and we are trying to organise bigger support for Ukraine,” Mr Duda said in English, adding: “We hope that the producer of those tanks, Germany, will also participate in this – in my opinion – very, very, very good idea.”

Speaking in the same discussion about European defence, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda likened the war to a game of chess and suggested Germany needed to make a move now.

“I like to play chess. You have to take the move and others will follow. Someone has to take this leadership and take this decision to support Ukraine because the tanks (have) become a very strategic factor of this war, especially now,” he said.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto also said Finland backed heavy tank deliveries, a move long resisted by Ukraine’s Western partners out of fear that it would antagonise the Kremlin.

“We hope that this decision (to deliver Leopards) will be made real, and Finland is definitely ready to play its part in that support,” he said during a sideline event at a Ukraine-themed pavilion.

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday after facing sustained criticism.

Mr Scholz on Tuesday announced Mr Boris Pistorius, a relatively unknown politician from his centre-left Social Democrat from the state of Lower Saxony, as her replacement.

Britain announced at the weekend that it would provide modern Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, making it the first Western country to supply the heavy armour.

Ukraine’s European allies have sent Kyiv more than 300 modernised Soviet tanks since Russia invaded the country in February 2022. AFP, REUTERS

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