Tanks for Ukraine: Polish PM Urges German Bravery on Leopard 2 Decision
January 23, 2023 (BBC) — Poland’s prime minister has called on Germany to be “brave” and allow his country to export 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.
Mateusz Morawiecki told the BBC that Germany had a “special responsibility”, having built up “huge Russian funds” before the war by buying its gas.
Ukraine sees the tanks as vital for breaking through Russian lines and beating an anticipated counter-offensive.
But as Leopard 2s are made in Germany, Berlin needs to approve their export.
Germany has been hesitant to send its own or allow other nations to do the same.
One of its concerns is that a sudden move could further escalate the conflict with Russia.
Mr Morawiecki said he would give Germany one or two weeks to make a decision – but would send its tanks, whatever Berlin says.
“We will do this, no matter what the decision is going to be,” he said. “But we want to go along the procedures which are requested of us.”
He also maintained that Germany should send some of its own Leopard 2s – he said they had 350 operational Leopard tanks and 200 in storage.
“Why keep them in storage?” he asked.
President Zelensky believes about 300 Leopard tanks would help it defeat Russia.
The German government told the BBC it had received the request to export 14 German-made tanks on Tuesday.
The Leopard 2 tanks were specifically designed to compete with the Russian T-90 tanks, which are being used in the invasion.
In a BBC interview, Mr Morawiecki said that an urgent move from Germany was “so important”.
“This is why we have talk to our German partners, not to procrastinate, not to delay, but just to take brave decisions,” he said.
“Germany played a key role in building up the huge Russian funds for this war by buying Russian gas, trading with Russia, big time. Now there is a special responsibility on Germany’s shoulders,” he added.
He earlier accused Germany of “delaying, dodging, acting in a way that is difficult to understand”.
Mr Morawiecki said that Poland was “just about to send” 50 to 60 more tanks to Ukraine.
He did not name the type of tank but was probably referring to more Soviet-era tanks. Poland has already sent about 250 Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine.
On Tuesday, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin had given allied nations the green light to train Ukrainians to use Leopard 2 tanks but did not commit to sending their own.
Mr Pistorius said a decision about supplying the tanks would be made soon. The military’s chief of staff added that any decision would be taken at a political level.
“We are encouraging our partners if they want to, and if they have the opportunity, to start training Ukrainian forces on these Leopard vehicles,” Mr Pistorius said in a news conference with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.
Allied nations have become frustrated at what they perceive as German reluctance to send the armoured vehicles in recent days.
But Miguel Berger, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, told the BBC that decisions would “not be driven by the news cycle”.
Sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “would put pressure and additional tension on the relationship between Germany and Russia”, he said.
“Chancellor Scholz needs to have the time to analyse the strategic implications of the decision and then make a decision with partners – this is very important.”
Speaking on Tuesday, Poland’s Defence Minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said he was appealing to Germany to “join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks”.
“This is our common cause, because the security of the whole of Europe is at stake!” he added.
But Mr Pistorius defended German Chancellor Olaf Scholz against criticism that he was dragging his feet.
“Taking the lead does not mean blindly going ahead,” he said. “And if the decision takes another day or two, then that’s just the way it is.”
The UK has promised 14 Challenger tanks, while France is considering sending some of its Leclerc battle tanks.