European countries are stepping up supplies of tanks to Ukraine
European efforts to arm Ukraine with western tanks have advanced after Finland pledged to supply combat vehicles to the war-torn country and Poland said 14 of its Leopard 2A4s would cross the border “in a few days”.
But Berlin said countries that previously promised to send Ukraine some of Germany’s more advanced tanks remained reluctant.
Spain said it plans to send six older 2A4 tanks to Kiev, but in an illustration of the obstacles faced in getting Ukraine the military equipment it needs, Madrid confirmed they would need to undergo extensive repairs before they could could be delivered.
Last year, Spain’s defense minister said the country’s German-made Leopards, which had been mothballed in a warehouse since 2012, were in an “absolutely deplorable” condition. They ran out of oil and were missing vital parts, including their batteries.
During a visit to Kiev on Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Madrid will “send six Leopards and over the next few weeks we will see if we can increase from 6 to 10”.
Other countries are moving faster. In an interview with the Financial Times, the head of Poland’s national security bureau said the country would send 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine “in a few days,” along with four Canadian tanks that were shipped to Poland this month.
“It is possible that they leave this [Polish] limit at the end of the week,” said Jacek Siewiera.
Last month, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would send 14 Leopard 2A6s to support Kiev’s war effort and would allow other countries with stocks of the German-made tanks to export them to Ukraine.
Berlin said the plan was to deploy two Leopard 2 tank battalions, equivalent to about 62 tanks. One formed by Germany would consist of the more advanced Leopard 2A6s and one formed by Poland would consist of older Leopard 2AFs.
But progress has been excruciatingly slow. At last week’s Munich Security Conference, Scholz admonished Germany’s allies for failing to meet their pledges to deliver tanks to Ukraine after months of urging Berlin to act.
However, there are now signs that European countries are beginning to pick up the pace.
On Thursday, the Finnish Defense Ministry announced that it would send Ukraine three mine-clearing Leopard 2 tanks and train soldiers in their use, part of a new €160 million military aid package.
In Berlin it was hoped that Helsinki could make a bigger contribution – it has about 200 Leopard 2 tanks in total.
But Finnish President Sauli Niinistö recently said that Finland’s contribution is relatively small, given its long border – 1,340 km – with Russia and the fact that it is the only country with leopards that is not a NATO member.
Sweden’s Defense Minister Pål Jonson said Stockholm is also willing to send some of its Leopards to Ukraine. “We are in close dialogue with Germany in particular,” he told the TT news agency.
But the previous commitments have met with a certain disappointment in Berlin. Along with Germany, Portugal is the only European country that has agreed to send the advanced Leopard 2A6s, with a pledge to supply three of the tanks.
Spain has 239 Leopard 2A6s but has no intention of handing over any to Ukraine as it needs them for its own defence.
Poland had more success with its joint battalion of 2AFs. Spain supplies six, Norway eight and Canada four, in addition to the 14 supplied by Warsaw.
However, plans to deliver Leopard 2A4 were complicated by the glaring lack of spare parts and ammunition for the older tank. It has not been in service with the Bundeswehr for at least 20 years and German armaments manufacturers no longer support the model.
Boris Pistorius, Germany’s defense minister, expressed frustration at the lack of donations from other countries with newer leopard populations. “Obviously there are some nations that simply prefer to hide behind Germany,” he said at an event at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend. “It’s easy to say that if they let us, we would, and when we let them, they didn’t.”
https://www.ft.com/content/017864bd-f6db-459c-af67-675e81265ce2 European countries are stepping up supplies of tanks to Ukraine