Der Spiegel reported late on Tuesday that Germany was preparing to send its popular Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to help bolster the country’s war effort, according to unnamed sources. German Chancellor Olaf Schulz has decided to deliver the main battle tank after “months of debate,” according to an exclusive report in the German news outlet.
The German parliament is due to debate the contentious issue on Wednesday morning. The decision to send them would be a landmark moment in Western support for Kyiv, following intense pressure on Berlin from some of its NATO partners.
CNN reached out to the German government for comment on Tuesday evening but has yet to hear back.
The report came shortly after U.S. officials revealed on Tuesday that the Biden administration was finalizing plans to send U.S.-made tanks to Ukraine. Germany told the United States last week that it would not send the Leopard unless the United States also agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks.
Sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine will provide Kyiv’s forces with modern and powerful military vehicles for a possible Russian spring offensive. It would also be a blow to the Kremlin, which has increasingly been equipping Ukrainian forces with high-tech combat systems as Russia’s ground war nears the one-year mark.
Germany has resisted growing Western pressure to send some of its tanks to Ukraine, and its new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, has repeatedly called for more time, arguing that the move would have both advantages and disadvantages for Berlin.
On Tuesday, Warsaw upped the ante by formally requesting permission to send its own Leopards, a move Berlin had previously said would not block.
Several European countries also own some leopards, and even though Germany is not on board, Poland has led the way in re-exporting these leopards to Ukraine. But Schulz and Pistorius’ decision is seen as crucial because the tanks were built in Germany, which generally controls their export and re-export.
A Polish official told CNN on Tuesday that, to their knowledge, Berlin had not formally notified Warsaw of its decision to allow the Leopards to be sent to Ukraine.
A spokesman for the German Ministry of Defense previously told CNN that the German army has 320 Panther tanks, but did not say how many were on standby at any time.
Since the beginning of this year, Ukraine has pledged to supply Ukraine with several high-tech combat systems amid a new wave of Western military aid. Last week, the US finalized a massive military aid package for Ukraine worth about $2.5 billion that included Stryker tanks for the first time, while the UK and some EU countries have agreed to provide tanks.
Pistorius, who became Germany’s defense minister on Thursday, saw efforts by key allies to join the trend by sending Leopard missiles to Ukraine in his first days in office. Germany in turn sought assurances that the United States would also send its own tanks.
But after the conclusion of the Berlin summit last Friday, some leaders’ frustration became public, but no agreement was reached to send the leopards, with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accusing Germany of “wasting” its failure to make a decision. time”.
The Leopard 2 tank will be a formidable tank on the Ukrainian battlefield.
Each tank was armed with a 120 mm smoothbore gun and a 7.62 mm machine gun; it could reach speeds of 70 km/h (44 mph), or 50 km/h off-road, making mobility its One of the main features. According to its German manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, there is also full protection against threats, including improvised explosive devices, landmines or anti-tank fire.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called on countries to stop arguing over whether to send the tanks.
“We’ve talked hundreds of times about arms shortages. We can’t just rely on momentum,” he said during a virtual appearance at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last week.
Zelensky, apparently slamming Germany for its delay, added: “Sometimes there is no point in hesitating. When people say – if someone does, I will thank you.”
At the same time, Russia tried to intimidate Germany during the deliberations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked at a regular news conference about Moscow’s reaction to Berlin’s approval of the mission tanks, said relations between the two countries were “already at a fairly low level”, adding that currently ” There is no substantive dialogue with Germany or other EU countries” and NATO countries. ”
“Of course, such deliveries do not bode well for future relationships. They leave imminent traces,” Peskov said.
Past military assistance, such as the U.S. HIMARS rocket system, has been instrumental in helping Ukraine conduct a series of successful counteroffensives in recent months.