Scholz is asked on whether he will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine
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A European Union crisis could be on the verge of erupting after Poland suggested it has lost patience with Germany’s refusals to sanction the delivery of Leopard II tanks to Ukraine – and could go it alone. Poland has joined a number of other NATO allies in committing to donate a number of their own German-made tanks to Ukraine in order to provide a significant boost to the war-torn country’s efforts to fight off Russian forces. But moves to provide Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his troops with the weaponry have so far stalled as it requires permission from Berlin.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is coming under pressure to authorise the tanks prior to a meeting on Friday at the US military base of Ramstein, where military support to Ukraine will be discussed by 50 countries, including all 30 NATO members.
But officials close to him have suggested he would only allow Leopards to be sent if the US follows suit and donates a number of its Abrams – America’s line of main battle tanks.
Now in a bitter swipe towards one of the EU’s key member states, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki raged: “Permission is a secondary matter. We will either get it quickly or do what we see fit.”
The Polish leader said Ukraine’s ability to “defend freedom” in the war-torn country against Russian attacks may depend on it.
On Friday, Joe Biden’s administration is expected to announce another major new US weapons package for Ukraine, but the latest aid is unlikely to include tanks.
There are around 2,000 Leopard II tanks in armies across a dozen NATO armies, meaning they are ready to be sent to and used in Ukraine as soon as possible.
Last week, NATO member Britain UK said it would send a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks, AS90 guns, hundreds more armoured and protected vehicles, dozens more uncrewed aerial systems, another 100,000 artillery rounds, hundreds more sophisticated missiles.
Denmark has committed to donating 19 French-made Caesar howitzers to Ukraine and Sweden promised to send its Archer artillery system.
Recently, Ukrainian President Zelensky has pleaded with Western allies to ramp up its supply of heavy-duty artillery to the country as the war with Russia reaches a critical stage.
He warned during a speech at the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos via video-link on Wednesday: “There are times where we shouldn’t hesitate.”
“When someone says ‘I will give tanks if someone else will also share tanks’… I don’t think this is the right strategy to go with.”
Ukrainian Presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak also warned it was “time to stop trembling at Putin and take the final step.”
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He wrote on Twitter earlier today: “True leadership is about leading by example, not about looking up to others.
“There are no taboos. From Washington to London, from Paris to Warsaw, one thing is said: Ukraine needs tanks; tanks — the key to end war properly. Time to stop trembling at Putin and take the final step.
Earlier today, Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministries urged allies to “considerably” boost arms deliveries and urged countries that have Leopard tanks, including Germany and Turkey, to send them.
But Berlin appears to be stalling, with Gregory Meeks, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the US, telling AFP: “It’s basically that it’s got to be the United States and Germany. There’s no question about that.”
Ahead of the crunch meeting in Ramstein on Friday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in Davos: “The main message there will be more support and more advanced support, heavier weapons, and more modern weapons, because this is a fight for our values.”
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