Ukraine war: Germany won’t block export of its Leopard 2 tanks, foreign minister says


Germany’s foreign minister Anna Baerbock has said she “would not stand in the way” of Poland if it were to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Ukraine has called on the West to provide the German-made tanks which they say will help them defeat Russia.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the BBC that Germany had the power to “save the lives of many Ukrainian soldiers”.

But Germany is yet to agree and its export laws have stood in Poland’s way.

On Sunday, Ms Baerbock said Poland had not yet asked for export permission.

“For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way,” she told France’s LCI TV.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday the government would request authorisation from Berlin. But he said Poland would send the tanks to Ukraine, even if it was not granted.

“Even if, ultimately we did not get this consent, within the framework of a small coalition….we will still hand over our tanks, together with others, to Ukraine,” Mr Morawiecki said.

In a BBC interview on Monday, Ukraine’s Mr Kuleba appealed to all countries willing to send Leopard 2 tanks to “immediately, officially request the German government to allow delivery of these tanks to Ukraine”.

“This is the move that will make the whole situation crystal clear and we will see where it takes Germany. This is something that needs to be done right away and everything will become obvious,” he added.

A spokesperson for the German government said on Monday it had not yet received any requests to authorise the delivery of the Leopard 2 tanks.

Last week, Mr Morawiecki said Poland was ready to provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.

On Monday, the Polish president’s foreign policy adviser, Marcin Przydacz, said he welcomed Ms Baerbock’s announcement, but would prefer to hear Germany’s position confirmed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“It turns out that through talks and diplomatic actions, Poland is able to change the German position,” Mr Przydacz told Polish Radio.

However, Warsaw ultimately wants Berlin and Nato allies to also send their own Leopards because government officials admit that 14 tanks will have a limited impact on Ukraine’s fighting capacity.

The Leopard 2 tanks were specifically designed to compete with the Russian T-90 tanks, which are being used in the invasion.

There are believed to be more than 2,000 of them worldwide and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said about 300 of them would help ensure a Russian defeat.

Many allied countries have become frustrated with Germany over its reluctance to send its own Leopard 2 tanks.

Under current regulations, Germany must also sanction any re-export of its tanks by other countries, such as Poland.

Following a meeting of more than 50 allied countries on Friday, Germany had not yet committed to supplying the tanks nor releasing their export licence. But it denied unilaterally blocking the tanks’ export.

In a joint statement on Saturday the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania told Germany “to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now”.

Mr Scholz has traditionally been sceptical of German involvement in military conflicts, and concerned about triggering an escalation from Russia.

The chancellor met French president Emmanuel Macron at the weekend to reiterate the two countries’ post-war alliance.

France has already committed to sending light tanks to Ukraine, and Mr Macron suggested it was possible that French-made Leclerc heavy tanks may also be delivered to Ukraine.

Other countries have committed to sending tanks, including the UK, which will send 14 Challenger