Ukraine, Scholz and doubts about Leopards: that’s why the chancellor hesitates

Germany subject to pressure from Kiev and some allies to take a decision on the matter

Will Olaf Scholz finally give the go-ahead to supply Ukraine with German-made Leopard tanks? As allies meet today at the US base in Ramstein in Germany to coordinate military aid to Ukraine, all eyes are on the German chancellor.

Second several observers, the green light will be triggered only if the United States sends its Abrams tanks. But a spokesman for the Berlin government, Steffen Hebestreit, has denied this hypothesis. “At no time – underlined the spokesman – there was a binding or a request that one of the two things must happen for the other to happen”. Hebestreit noted that he “finds it difficult to imagine a German chancellor dictating conditions or making demands on an American president”. In any case, he said, coordinated action with the United States on this matter was important for the German government.

The Pentagon, for its part, remains reluctant because it does not consider its tanks particularly suitable. “The Abrams are a very complicated piece of equipment. They are expensive. Training in their use is difficult. They have a jet engine,” said one of the Pentagon’s top security advisers, Colin Kahl. According to a Berlin government source quoted by the BBC, reports of a stalemate on the matter between the United States and Germany are exaggerated. However, writes the broadcaster, the affair worries the allies, while pressure on Scholz increases.

There is an increasingly broad consensus that the supply of Western tanks will be crucial for the coming months, in anticipation of the new Russian offensive expected by the spring. So far, only London has committed to this, while France, Germany and the United States have sent armored vehicles. Poland and Finland say they are ready to send their Leopardsbut to do so they must have permission from Berlin which sold them to them.

Scholz’s decision, as has already happened in the past for other arms supplies to Ukraine, is delayed by the fear of provoking an escalation in the war. His cautious line is shared by German public opinion and it is also for this reason that Scholz wants the green light for the Leopards to take place in the context of a decision shared with the other allies, with whom to share the responsibility. According to polls, only 25% of Germans believe that Berlin is not sending enough weapons to Ukraine, 26% think too many have been sent and 41% are satisfied with the current level.

Meanwhile, according to a spokesman for the Berlin government quoted by Sky News, Poland could send Leopard tanks to Ukraine made in Germany even without the authorization of Germany. Yesterday the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of ”secondary importance authorization” compared to the need to send the Leopard 2s to Ukraine.

Explaining that he was unaware of a formal request to Germany from Poland to send Leopards to Ukraine, the Berlin spokesman explained that the export license for the Leopard main battle tank is exclusive to the German government. which then must officially authorize other countries to send them abroad.