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23 Jan 2023

Germany 'would not stand in way' of Poland sending tanks to Ukraine, minister says

Germany 'would not stand in way' of Poland sending tanks to Ukraine, minister says

Germany would not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has said, in what appeared to be the clearest signal yet from Berlin that European allies could deliver the German-made hardware.

Asked in an interview with French television LCI what would happen if Poland sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Baerbock replied through a translator: “For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”

Heavy diplomatic pressure has been building on Berlin to send its tanks, or at least allow countries that bought them from Germany to re-export them. As the producer of the Leopard tanks, Berlin has a veto on their transfer.

But at a special international summit on Friday at the US military base in Ramstein, in southwest Germany, Berlin had declined to take a decision on whether to give Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, leading to growing frustration from Kyiv and its allies.

Earlier on Sunday, the speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, State Duma chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, said that governments giving more powerful weapons to Ukraine could cause a “global tragedy that would destroy their countries”.

“Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” he said.

“If Washington and Nato supply weapons that would be used for striking peaceful cities and making attempts to seize our territory as they threaten to do, it would trigger a retaliation with more powerful weapons.”

Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, speaking on Sunday before the French television interview with Baerbock, had criticised Germany’s failure to supply the hardware to Ukraine.

“Germany’s attitude is unacceptable. It has been almost a year since the war began. Innocent people are dying every day,” Morawiecki said. “Russian bombs are wreaking havoc in Ukrainian cities. Civilian targets are being attacked, women and children are being murdered.”

“I try to weigh my words but I’ll say it bluntly: Ukraine and Europe will win this war – with or without Germany,” he added.

Morawiecki said he was waiting for “a clear statement” from Berlin. Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, had said he could not say when a decision would be taken on the issue.

Poland has said it is ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Kyiv and Morawiecki said that if Germany continued to refuse to supply the tanks to Ukraine, “we will set up a ‘small coalition’ of countries ready to donate some of their modern equipment, their modern tanks”. – Guardian, additional reporting AP

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