German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he would allow NATO allies to send German Leopard tanks to Ukraine only if Washington also provides it with American Abrams tanks. According to The Wall Street Journal, citing senior German officials, Scholz is putting pressure on US President Joe Biden, demanding a decision. Earlier, several countries, including Poland, Finland and Denmark, promised to transfer Leopards to Kyiv if Berlin did not object.
Pan-European data coordinator Rafael Loss explained the position of the German authorities in an interview with The Insider.
Why is US involvement important for Germany?
Recent months have shown that decisions about how much military aid to send to Ukraine are made in the chancellor's office. Political factors are the main reason for the chancellor's refusal to act without the United States: he seems to believe that his party and the public would be against German leadership on this issue. At least in the latter he is mistaken, as it seems to me.
Why does Germany require the sending of Abrams tanks ahead of the Leopards?
As evidence that Germany and the US seem to be on the same page, when by most indicators they are not. The amount of US military aid to Ukraine far exceeds that of Germany. The US also bears the largest burden of deterrence and security within the NATO alliance. Perhaps Olaf Scholz believes that the relationship between Berlin and Washington is the basis for Western support for Ukraine, but I doubt that the White House will agree with this.
Which version of Leopards is most likely to be provided?
The 2A4 and 2A5 variants of the Leopard are the most widely used in Europe, but there are some technical differences between the two versions. Variants 2A5 and 2A6 are more similar in order to simplify training and maintenance, but variant 2A6 is used by only a small number of European countries. An additional problem will be the standardization of user interfaces, etc. for Leopard tanks received as a gift from different countries: the differences between two 2A4 units received from two different countries can be quite significant. From a logistical point of view, all this will be a serious challenge, but the issue still needs to be resolved, and the sooner the supporters of Ukraine begin to do this, the sooner the tanks will be able to influence the outcome of the battles.
Is Germany ready to become the coordinator of the Leopard transfer process?
Just not on their own initiative. As recent days have shown - including the recent statement from the Pentagon - the US leadership is forced to pull Germany along in this matter. Berlin is at the center of this discussion simply because Germany needs to approve the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine by other countries, and also because German industry produces these tanks, as well as ammunition and spare parts for them.
How does the issue of tanks affect the internal political struggle in Germany? Or vice versa: how does the struggle affect this question?
For months, the question of whether or not to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine has dominated the debate about Germany's support for Ukraine. The leaders of two parties - the Greens and the liberal FDP, which are Olaf Scholz's coalition partners - as well as opposition politicians and some members of the chancellor's own SPD are calling for the transfer of tanks. When Olaf Scholz now claims Germany's leading role in European security, it looks more and more unfounded.
Why does Germany, even if it does not want to transfer tanks itself, does not want to allow exports to other countries - Poland, Finland?
It seems that for the German chancellor this would be too bold a step in relations with the US politically. But this attitude has certainly prevented Europe from taking a more active and strategic stance in support of Ukraine against Russian aggression, and thus has prevented the transatlantic relationship from being rebalanced in the direction of a true leadership partnership.
In an interview with the head of one of the Leopard manufacturers, Rheinmetall, it is said that there are 22 Leopard 2 tanks and 88 Leopard 1 tanks, but there is no contract for their preparation for transfer to Ukraine. What prevents such a contract from being concluded? In the same interview, the head of Rheinmetall says that it will take a whole year to prepare and transfer the tanks to Ukraine, is this true?
Later reports indicate that the German industry will be able to deliver more machines in a somewhat shorter time, and I think there is reason to believe this. No one expects the industry to release hundreds of tanks for no reason. That is why proactive leadership and coordination with allies and industry is so important to provide Ukraine with the initial Leopard 2 capability. In my opinion, 80-100 vehicles is a realistic goal for the first tranche, and then industrial stocks should be used to replace the transferred vehicles and to increase the production of new ones. buildings. This is what distinguishes the Leopard 2 from all other European tanks: a functioning production line that can serve as a basis for rebuilding capacity. After all, it is obvious that the demand for new tanks will grow both among European NATO allies and in Ukraine.