Germany, Nato chief say decision on tanks could come in the next few days

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg (left) and German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius announced jointly that a decision on sending tanks to Ukraine was imminent. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN – Germany’s Defence Minister Boris Pistorius has said Chancellor Olaf Scholz is already talking to Berlin’s allies about sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and a decision to ship them could come in the next few days.

He said nations with Leopard 2s in their militaries may actually start training Ukrainians on how to use these lethal main battle tanks.

“I am preparing for a possible decision to send the Leopard tanks and to allow other European and Nato partners to do the same,” Mr Pistorius said in an interview on Tuesday with public broadcaster ZDF, pushing back against the suggestion that Germany is dragging its feet.

“If the decision takes one or two days, then that’s just the way it is,” he said.

He added that he is also “expressly (encouraging) partner countries that have Leopard tanks that are ready for deployment to train Ukrainian forces on these tanks”.

Nato chief Jen Stoltenberg said he welcomes the “clear message” from Berlin “because after a decision has been taken on the delivery on battle tanks, it will take some time to identify, to make them ready and to train Ukrainian solders to use them”.

“At this pivotal moment in the war, we must provide heavier and more advanced systems to Ukraine, and we must do it faster,” he said.

Mr Scholz’s cautious approach to sending Leopard tanks – or allowing other countries to export their own stocks – to Ukraine has been confusing Germany’s allies and creating splits within his own government.

Poland said it has formally requested Germany’s permission to send the tanks to Ukraine, according to Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

Three Baltic states over the weekend called on Germany as Europe’s leading power to quickly change course.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Mykhailo Podolyak, was more outspoken, saying indecision “is killing more of our people”.

Allies have expressed concern that Mr Scholz’s slow decision-making could prolong the conflict and undermine his pledge of pushing ahead with a more assertive German defence policy, described by him as a Zeitenwende, or historic turning point.

“At this point, there are no good arguments saying why battle tanks, why air defence systems can’t be provided,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics told reporters. “The argument of escalation doesn’t work because Russia keeps escalating.”

With Ukrainian and Nato officials expecting a possible intensification of the fighting this spring, Kyiv has been pleading for Germany and allies to send the modern battle tanks, which could help Ukrainian forces both defend their positions and regain lost territory by breaking through Russian frontlines. BLOOMBERG, AFP, REUTERS

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