PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Germany’s foreign minister said on Sunday his government would not stand in the way if Poland wants to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, in a possible move to Kyiv that wants the tanks to counter a Russian invasion. .
Ukrainian officials have been asking Western allies to supply them with modern German-made tanks for months – but Berlin has stopped sending them, or allowing other NATO countries to do so.
When asked what would happen if Poland went ahead and sent its Leopard 2 tanks without Germany’s permission, Annalena Baerbock said on France’s LCI TV: “At the moment the question has not been asked, but if asked we will not stop.”
His comments appear to go further than German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a conference in Paris earlier on Sunday that all decisions on arms delivery should be made in cooperation with allies including the United States.
Germany has been under heavy pressure to allow the Leopards to travel to Ukraine. But Scholz’s Social Democrat party has traditionally been skeptical of military involvement and wary of emergency measures that could increase Moscow’s influence.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Sunday that he expects a decision soon on the tanks, although he kept a note of caution.
Pistorius told ARD TV that Germany will not make a hasty decision because the government has many things to consider, including the impact at home on the security of the German people.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reiterated his long-standing request for tanks during his meeting on Sunday with former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who visited Kyiv.
“We need more weapons: tanks, aircraft, long-range missiles,” Zelenskiy said, according to a statement on his website.
Ukraine says heavily armored Western tanks will give the Ukrainian military greater mobility and security ahead of a new Russian military offensive that Kyiv hopes will soon take place. It would also help Ukraine regain some of the territory it has lost to Russia.
After the Paris meeting, Scholz told a press conference that all the deliveries of weapons to Ukraine so far were carried out in cooperation with Western partners. “We will do this in the future,” he said.
Speaking at the same press conference, French President Emmanuel Macron said he is not ruling out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine.
Macron said that the deployment of tanks should not exacerbate the problem, it should consider the time to train the Ukrainians to be effective, and not harm the security of France.
“In the case of the Leclercs, I asked the defense minister to work, but nothing has been stopped,” Macron said, adding that the move should be coordinated with allies such as Germany in the coming days and weeks.
German sources told Reuters that they would allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to support its defense against Russia if the United States agrees to send its tanks. But US officials say President Joe Biden’s administration is not ready to deploy its tanks, including the M1 Abrams.
A Kremlin spokesman said on Friday that Western countries supplying Ukraine with additional tanks will not change the course of the conflict and will increase the suffering of the Ukrainian people.
Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Leigh Thomas; Additional reporting by Tom Sims, Lidia Kelly and Humeyra Pamuk; Edited by David Holmes, Andrew Heavens and Diane Craft
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