Poland steps up pressure to send German-made tanks to Ukraine | Ukraine

Poland has reiterated its willingness to send tanks to Ukraine without Germany’s consent as pressure mounts on Berlin to supply the heavy weapons Kiev has requested.

The Polish prime minister said his government would seek permission from Berlin to send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, but described that permission as “of secondary importance”.

Mateusz Morawiecki said, “Even if we didn’t get this approval… we would still transfer our tanks to Ukraine along with others.” He added that “the precondition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries”.

Berlin is coming under intense pressure to release the military hardware after failing to make a decision at a much-anticipated international defense summit at the US military base of Ramstein in southwestern Germany on Friday.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s remark on Sunday that her country would not “impede” Poland from sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine has caused some confusion in Berlin. For now, it remains unclear whether her comments point to a shift in the government’s position or merely an attempt by the Green party to correct Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s botched communications strategy.

Baerbock did not repeat her comment when pressed Monday morning. “It is important that we as the international community do everything we can to defend Ukraine so that Ukraine wins. Because if it loses, Ukraine will cease to exist,” she told the press at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

Baerbock’s fellow party member Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, signaled 10 days ago that his ministry would not block the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks from other European countries to Ukraine. “There is a difference between making a decision of one’s own accord and hindering the decision of others,” Habeck said at the time.

While the re-export of German-manufactured tanks must be approved by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Habeck’s carte blanche for such decisions has effectively shifted the decision-making process to Scholz’s office.

That Scholz would actually block Poland’s formal request to supply Kiev Leopard 2 tanks from its reserves, as made explicit on Monday, is hard to imagine, not least because it would inflate the chancellor’s line that the positions of the Allies on such matters are more united. than media reports make it sound.

On Sunday night, Germany’s new defense minister Boris Pistorius dismissed reports of an open disagreement between Washington and Berlin over the battle tank issue. “Germany was not isolated,” Pistorius said of last Friday’s meeting at Ramstein Air Base.

Poland has said it is ready to send 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine. In previous comments, Morawiecki described Germany’s attitude as unacceptable. “I try to weigh my words, but I say it plainly: Ukraine and Europe will win this war – with or without Germany,” he said.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday discussed the issue, but without any immediate breakthrough.

Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, said his country could supply Ukraine with some Leopard tanks and spare parts, and/or train soldiers to operate and maintain the tanks, but suggested the decision rested with Germany. “We are still working on what kind of package will be formed. We hope it is a position that countries like Germany can participate in,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s staunchest allies in the Baltics made it clear that they wanted Germany to act quickly. “Let me be clear that Germany is a motor of Europe and that it also carries a special responsibility,” said Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu. He said Estonia spent 1% of its national income on military aid for Ukraine and urged others to do the same. “We must give the Ukrainian people a shield but also a sword to liberate the area.”

His Lithuanian counterpart, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said there was a “very lively debate” going on in Germany. “I hope it will be fruitful, as it has been in the past, that Germany will send the tanks. Unfortunately, as those waiting for them to ship, we have to wait another day.

Recalling Lithuania’s repression under the Soviet Union, Landsbergis said “we must defeat the fear of beating Russia,” without naming specific countries. “If we are not preparing for Russia to lose the war, then we are not serious about helping Ukraine win,” he said.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said he thought such weapons should be provided to the Ukrainian military, but described it as a decision for EU member states.

The EU also ratified a new €500 million military aid package to Ukraine on Monday as foreign ministers met in Brussels. The package was approved along with another €45 million for “non-lethal equipment” for the EU’s military training mission to Ukraine, sources told Reuters.

Earlier, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said his country would not block the EU’s move.

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