Why the Leopard 2 tank is so important to Ukraine

(CNN) — Germany failed to reach agreement with its major Western allies on deployment Tanks Leopard 2 Ukraine, despite pressure from NATO and Kiev, must increase its military aid ahead of a Russian offensive in the spring.

“All of us cannot say today when a decision will be made on the Tiger tanks and what that decision will be,” newly appointed Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters on Friday. Security meeting High level at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

The stance will frustrate Ukraine’s military, at least for now, as days of talks between the US, other Western partners and Berlin ended in encouraging news on Friday.

The Panther 2 tanks are seen as an important modern military vehicle that will bolster Kevin’s forces as the war with Russia nears its one-year mark.

But Germany has responded to claims of delays in providing military support to Ukraine, calling for the US to send its own tanks across the Atlantic and into Ukraine.

Here’s what you need to know about the Panther 2 tanks, the geopolitical controversy surrounding them, and why they’re so important to the war in Ukraine.

Faster, fuel-efficient Panther tanks will greatly enhance Ukraine’s military effort, experts say.

What did Germany decide?

Germany was expected to announce its decision to send Panther 2 tanks to Ukraine on Friday, but instead said it needed more time.

“As far as the delivery of the tiger is concerned, there is no consensus,” Pistorius told reporters on the sidelines of the Ramstein meeting.

“There are good reasons for surrender and there are good reasons against it. Given the general situation of nearly a year of war, all the pros and cons have to be weighed very carefully, and many allies clearly share that assessment,” he added.

Pistorius said he had instructed officials to audit Germany’s stockpile of Panther 2 tanks so the country could “act quickly”.

Pistorius was appointed defense minister on Thursday, but within his first hours in office there were calls from the US and other NATO partners to green-light the deployment of Panther 2 tanks.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had planned to “put pressure on the Germans” to allow the transfer of tanks to Ukraine during a meeting with Pistorius on Thursday. A senior official said it would give Kiev a “critical-time capability” to counter a possible Russian attack in the spring. American security officer Before those talks.

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However, a meeting of Western allies in Germany on Friday failed to reach a concrete decision in Berlin.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius met US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov at Ramstein Air Base on Friday. Wolfgang Rutte/Reuters

Why is Berlin at odds with NATO allies?

Several European countries have pledged to send tanks to Ukraine in recent weeks. But before joining them, Germany wanted the US to join the group by sending its own M1 Abrams tanks.

CNN reported Friday that German officials indicated they would not send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine or allow any other country with German-made tanks in their inventory unless the United States also agreed to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv.

“They’ve put us in a difficult position,” a senior Biden administration official told CNN on Thursday, adding that the Germans are demanding tanks for the tanks and have not budged on any other offer the US has made to induce Berlin to send the Panthers. .

Asked about the issue during an interview with German public broadcaster ARD on Thursday, Pistorius said he was “not aware of such an arrangement”. German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told a news conference on Friday that there was “no provision or requirement for one to take place at any time”.

But Berlin’s refusal to send tanks apparently angers other NATO leaders.

Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński said in a radio interview with RMF on Friday morning that Germany has a “fundamental problem” with the plan. And Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who pledged military aid the day before, said “the least effective so far are the Germans.”

“We have spoken hundreds of times about arms shortages. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a virtual appearance at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos on Thursday.

In an outspoken criticism of Germany’s stagnation, Zelensky added: “There are moments when there is no need to hesitate. When people say: I’ll give you tanks if someone else gives them.”

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Why are Leopard 2 tanks so important?

Thirteen European countries, including Poland and Finland, already have modern German Panther 2 tanks, which were introduced in 1979 and have been upgraded several times since then, according to the European Foreign Relations Think Tank.

Many of them agreed to re-export some tanks to Kiev, but they needed Germany’s permission. According to the Portuguese Defense Ministry, representatives of the countries that have Leopard tanks met on the sidelines of the Ramstein meeting.

In total, around 2,000 Leopard 2 vehicles are in various states of readiness across Europe.

Each tank has a 120mm smoothbore gun and a 7.62mm machine gun; It can reach a speed of 70 km/h or 50 km/h. According to its German manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, it has comprehensive protection against threats including improvised explosive devices, mines or anti-tank fire.

The large number of units already stationed near Ukraine and the relatively low maintenance requirements of the Panther compared to other models lead experts to believe that the tanks could quickly help Ukraine.

Experts say Germany’s Leopard 2 tank is a better fit for Ukraine’s military and easier to supply than American Abrams models. Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images

“The Leopard 2 is a modern main battle tank, well protected and with good sensors,” Jack Watling, a senior research fellow in land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told CNN. “It was originally designed to be maintained by recruiters, so it is easier to maintain in combat than other NATO designs such as the Challenger 2. There is already a production line to stock the Leopard 2s with spare parts. Replacement”.

Meanwhile, the Panthers run on diesel, unlike the Abrams, which makes their fuel use more efficient and reduces the number of fuel trucks needed to support a battalion.

These are some of the reasons why critics of Berlin’s stance say that even if the US decides to send its own M1 Abrams tanks, Leopard 2s should be sent to Ukraine.

“Leopards are available in Europe,” CDU lawmaker Roderich Kiesewetter told CNN on Friday. “Abrams require a lot of logistical support and it’s very expensive to provide them.

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“Germany is isolated in its position,” he said, urging the government to abandon its reluctance. “If we want fair transatlantic freight sharing, we have to offer what is available in Europe.”

Germany expands aid to Ukraine?

The frustration felt by some NATO members with Germany has reinforced the narrative in some corners that Berlin has been slower than its Western peers to offer support to Ukraine.

“(Friday) is a day of celebration in Russia,” Kieswetter told CNN after Berlin put its decision on hold. “This delay costs lives in Ukraine.”

Pistorius’ appointment this week raised questions about his previous stances on Russia.

“I don’t know much about Germany’s new defense minister. “What I know gives me some concern,” Polish leader Morawiecki said in a video interview after returning from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He cited Pistorius’ previous support for easing sanctions against Russia and his relationship with “close ally” Hegard Schröder. The former German chancellor was forced He resigned his position in the German parliament (Bundestag) for not severing trade relations with Russia after Moscow’s invasion.

But German officials this week tried to play down that discontent. Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz told delegates in Davos that his government “continues to supply large quantities of weapons to Ukraine in close consultation with our partners”. Germany alone received more than 12 billion euros ($13 billion) last year and will “continue to support Ukraine as long as it needs it,” he said.

What weapons is the US sending to Ukraine? 2:10

Behind the comings and goings is Germany’s evolving approach to military and defense policy in the wake of Moscow’s war in Ukraine. In the context of post-war militarization, modern Germany is reluctant to engage in international conflicts.

But shortly after the Russian invasion began last February, Scholz made a striking speech promising to spend 100 billion euros. Modernization of military capability From Germany.

Henceforth, he promised that Germany would honor NATO’s commitment to spend 2% of its GDP and end excessive dependence on Russian energy, especially gas. Germany’s position on arms shipments to Ukraine has also changed: in recent months, Berlin has sent Weapons From Gepard anti-aircraft systems to Patriot missile batteries.

Nearly a year into the war, critics say Scholes’ vision has not been realized and critics accuse Berlin of sending weapons to Ukraine wrong.

CNN’s Christian Edwards, Chris Stern, Niamh Kennedy, Antonia Mortensen, Nadine Schmidt, Paula Newton and Radina Kikova contributed to this report.

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