Poland asks Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Poland has made a formal application to Berlin to send German-made tanks to Ukraine, heaping pressure on chancellor Olaf Scholz to give the green light as he faces a growing international clamour to bolster Kyiv’s fight against Russia.

A German official confirmed that an application from Warsaw to re-export Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine had been received. “We will deal with the application according to the established procedure and with the appropriate urgency,” he said.

Scholz has faced mounting calls in recent weeks from Kyiv and its western allies to respond to Ukraine’s pleas for western-made battle tanks.

Poland and other countries have said they are willing to send their Leopard 2s, but Scholz’s reluctance to support that move has led to fissures between members of the Nato military alliance. The German leader’s position is crucial because he has the power to grant or withhold permission for the 13 nations across Europe that use the Leopard 2 to send them to Ukraine.

The German-built tanks are seen as most suitable for Ukraine’s needs, but Berlin has been hesitant, fearing the risks of taking steps that could be viewed in Moscow as an escalation of the conflict.

“I hope that the answer from the Germans will come quickly this time. They are procrastinating, acting in a way that is difficult to understand,” Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday.

Poland’s formal export request, a day after Berlin encouraged Warsaw to do so, came as Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary-general, said he was “confident” that a solution to the dispute would be found soon.

Speaking alongside Germany’s defence minister Boris Pistorius in Berlin, Stoltenberg said the two men had discussed the Leopard 2 issue, adding “consultations among allies will continue and I’m confident we will have a solution soon”.

Russia warned of unspecified consequences in response to any potential move. “Relations are already at a pretty low point, and there is no sign of any substantive dialogue with Germany and the other countries of the EU and Nato,” Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said on Tuesday, according to Interfax.

“These supplies don’t mean anything good for the future of the relationship. They will definitely leave an inevitable mark,” added Peskov.

Berlin has sent mixed messages in recent days. Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said this weekend she believed Germany would not disagree with a formal request to export the tanks. But there is still a separate question over whether Germany will send its own tanks to Ukraine.

“We have a discussion on the Leopards. And I think that’s a kind of natural part of an evolving policy when it comes to exactly what kind of capabilities we should deliver to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. “I welcome, of course, the message from the minister that there will be a conclusion soon because time matters.”

Pistorius, who was appointed by Scholz as Germany’s new defence minister last week, said that he hoped a “positive decision [regarding Leopards] is to be shortly expected”.

Separately, Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the general staff, indicated that rising tensions with the west over Ukraine would have consequences beyond the conflict.

Gerasimov, appointed commander of Russia’s invasion force as part of a reshuffle this month, said Moscow had decided to carry out a far-reaching reform and expansion of its military in response to Finland and Sweden’s plans to join Nato, as well as what he called the “hybrid war” in Ukraine.

“The leadership of the country has set the task [of reforming] the armed forces in order to neutralise these threats,” Gerasimov said in an interview with the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper, published on Tuesday. “The main goal of this work is to guarantee our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is defended and to create conditions for its ensuing socio-economic growth.”

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