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Germany caves in on Leopard tanks for Ukraine as US hints at Abrams transfer

Illustration: German defense ministry file photo

The German government has finally given in to international pressure and will be sending Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, the German dpa news agency reports.

According to several reports out of the country, Germany will be sending “at least one company” of the Leopard 2A6 to Ukraine, where they will reinforce Ukrainian armed forces’ defense against the Russian invasion.

The reports are emerging just days after a 50-nation meeting at Ramstein air base, where international partners are coordinating their efforts in supporting Ukraine’s defense. One of the main takeaway points of that meeting was that Germany would not be approving the transfer of Leopards to Ukraine.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz repeatedly said he would not be making a decision on sending major offensive weapons like main battle tanks to Ukraine alone.

Interestingly, reports on Germany’s decision to approve the transfer of Leopard tanks were immediately followed by statements from US officials saying the Pentagon was poised to approve a transfer of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. This would be happening despite previous statements that getting Abrams tanks to Ukraine would be too much of a logistical challenge.

According to an Associated Press report, the US decision is tied to the one made by Germany. The report also said the tanks would be provided under an Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package, which means the tanks would not be drawn immediately from US Army stocks, but purchased from industry. This means the transfer of the tanks to Ukraine could take months or even years to materialize.

With Germany’s decision on the transfer of Leopards to Ukraine, Poland is now also allowed to send its Leopards. Earlier this month, Poland’s president Andrzej Duda said the country was ready to transfer a company’s worth of Leopard tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition.

Switzerland reversing its policy on weapons exports to Ukraine

On the same day reports emerged on new tanks for Ukraine, a report from Switzerland said the country’s Security Policy Commission of the National Council reversed its ban on weapons exports and will allow Germany, Denmark and Spain to ship weapons of Swiss origin to Ukraine.

According to Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Committee adopted a motion by 14 to 11 votes and the country’s National Council will now have to decide on the proposal.

Switzerland’s major weapons export bans that drew international attention included the reluctance to provide 35 mm shells for German Gepard anti-aircraft tanks that have already shipped to Ukraine. Denmark was also prevented from sending Swiss-made Piranha armored vehicles, while Spain publicly appealed to Switzerland this year to re-evaluate its decision on the export ban, without revealing what Spanish munitions or systems intended for Ukraine were affected by the ban.