SUNDAY, April 21, 2024

'Sea change' in Germany's relationships with its neighbours - analyst on Ukraine tank decision

'Sea change' in Germany's relationships with its neighbours - analyst on Ukraine tank decision

Germany said on Wednesday it would supply its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, overcoming misgivings about sending heavy weaponry that Kyiv sees as crucial to defeat Russia's invasion but Moscow casts as a dangerous provocation.

“The fact that the Germans were finally willing to supply the Ukrainians with these tanks really does show that this is a sea change in the way that Germany views its relationship with Russia and with Russia's neighbours, and also, I would say, with, with Central and Eastern Europe," said Angela Stent, Georgetown University Professor Emerita and author of "Putin's World: Russia against the West and with the Rest."

Pressure has been building for weeks on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government to send the tanks and allows Nato allies to do the same before expected spring offensives by both sides.

Scholz's government had stalled, wary of moves that could prompt Russia to escalate the war or draw Nato into becoming a party to the conflict.

Germany's decision paves the way for other countries such as Poland, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway to supply some of their Leopard tanks to Ukraine, going some way towards delivering the hundreds of tanks that Ukraine says it needs.

“If you look at the past year of the war, at every step there’s been a reluctance to supply, you know, more advanced weaponry to Ukraine because of the fear of Russian escalation of the Russian reaction," Stent said. "Yet, slowly but surely, all of these constraints have vanished."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Scholz for Germany's "important and timely decisions," saying they were a "green light for partners to supply similar weapons."

Germany aims to quickly establish two battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine and initially provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks from its own inventory.

A battalion normally comprises three or four companies with around 14 tanks each. Poland has also pledged 14 tanks and Britain has promised 14 of its own Challengers.

Germany's tanks would probably be ready in three-four months, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said.

Training of Ukrainian troops in Germany will begin soon, and Germany will also provide logistics and ammunition. Germany said it would also issue the appropriate transfer permits to partner countries that want to deliver Leopard 2 tanks quickly from their own stocks.