Written by: Octavio Bellomo
Several European governments have decided or have seriously been considering sending tanks to Kyiv as more intense fighting is expected with the coming of spring. In particular, there have been discussions regarding the German Leopard 2 main battle tank. Polish President Duda seems to have already determined that “A company of Leopard tanks for Ukraine will be transferred as part of building an international coalition” (Kancelaria Prezydenta, 2023).
Similarly, Finnish President Niinistö and interim Minister of Defence Savola have mentioned the possibility of sending tanks to arm Ukraine. However, Niinistö did point out that Finland will be limited in the amount it can send due to defence concerns stemming from the country sharing a significant border with the Russian Federation, as well as delays in its NATO accession (Yle, 2023).
Regardless of the intentions of Poland or of other countries, the decision to send the Leopard 2 to Ukraine ultimately rests with Berlin. Since the tank is originally produced in Germany, only the Germans can approve its re-export. So far, Germany has not made any decisions on sending tanks itself, but Vice Chancellor Habeck has stated that Berlin will not stand in the way of other countries’ decisions (von der Burchard, 2023). However, German officials claim that no tank re-export permission requests have been made as of yet (DW, 2023). German Marder infantry fighting vehicles will be accompanying American Bradleys and French AMX-10 RC armoured fighting vehicles assisting Kyiv’s efforts.
The United Kingdom had also been debating whether or not to send Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine (Sabbagh, 2023), something which it has full autonomy to do. Prime Minister Sunak has announced that London will send 14 of said tanks (Beale & Andersson, 2023). If given to Kyiv, along with the Leopard 2, these tanks would come at a time of significant need, as a possible large Russian spring offensive might be expected. This is particularly pressing as Ukrainian intelligence claims that hundreds of thousands of more Russian conscripts are likely to be mobilised (Koshiw & Suaer, 2023).
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Kancelaria Prezydenta [@prezydentpl]. (2023, January 11). Prezydent @AndrzejDuda w #Lwów: Kompania czołgów Leopard dla Ukrainy zostanie przekazana w ramach budowania koalicji międzynarodowej. Taka decyzja jest już [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/prezydentpl/status/1613174589156200448?s=20&t=DCgGLurm58hGOivQETkywA.
Koshiw, I., & Sauer, P. (2023, January 6). Russia preparing to mobilise extra 500,000 conscripts, claims Ukraine. The Guardian. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/06/russia-preparing-mobilise-extra-500000-conscripts-claims-ukraine.
Sabbagh, D. (2023, January 9). Uk considers supplying handful of Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. The Guardian. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/09/uk-considers-supplying-handful-of-challenger-2-tanks-to-ukraine-war-russia.
von der Burchard, H. (2023, January 12). Poland can send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, German vice chancellor says. Politico. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-leopard-tank-ukraine-war-germany-vice-chancellor-robert-habeck/.
Yle. (2023, January 12). President: Finland could send tanks to Ukraine under certain circumstances. Yle. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://yle.fi/a/74-20012647.