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Germany decides to send battle tanks to Ukraine – POLITICO

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to announce the delivery of German Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine on Wednesday, two officials with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.

The move is a significant turnaround and potentially a watershed moment in the war as it should pave the way for a broader coalition of countries to send battle tanks to the front line against the Russian invaders. As the Leopard 2 tanks are manufactured in Germany, Berlin must give its authorization for their re-export.

Berlin has long resisted sending Leopard 2s, wanting Washington to take the first step by sending heavy armor. That kind of joint action finally seemed imminent on Tuesday, with two US officials saying President Joe Biden’s administration was leaning toward sending “significant numbers” of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. An announcement on American tanks could come as early as this week.

Scholz’s announcement is expected to be made official in an address to the German parliament at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. According to one of the officials, Germany will also confirm that it will allow other countries like Poland to send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Warsaw announced on Tuesday that it had submitted a long-awaited official request to re-export its Leopards.

Leading lawmakers from both of Scholz’s Social Democratic Party coalition partners, the Greens and the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP), welcomed the Chancellor’s about-face.

The FDP’s Marie-Agnès Strack-Zimmermann told POLITICO that “the decision was difficult and took far too long” but ultimately became “inevitable”.

“The fact that Germany is allowing partner countries to deliver Leopard 2 tanks and also delivering its own tanks is redemptive news for the battered and brave Ukrainian people.”

Strack-Zimmermann, who chairs the German parliament’s defense committee, added that Scholz’s decision “represents an important step in repelling Russia’s brutal assault on an innocent people.” With the very substantial assistance that Germany has already provided in recent months and will continue to provide with its partner, a decisive step was taken today on the way back to peace and freedom.

Anton Hofreiter of the Greens, chairman of the German parliament’s EU affairs committee, said “the decision to support Ukraine with Leopard 2 is the right one”.

Yet he also complained “that it would have been better if Germany’s international reputation had been decided more quickly. In particular, many countries in Europe were annoyed to make the delivery dependent on the United States. But better late than never. Putin will only be ready to negotiate seriously when he realizes that he cannot win the war, even in the long run.

Katja Leikert, an MP from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Germany’s main opposition party, said: “Once again we have to be grateful to the Americans and the role they have played in the unlock.”

German magazine Spiegel also reported on Tuesday evening that the chancellor had decided to supply Ukraine with Leopard tanks, saying Germany would send “at least one company of Leopard 2A6s” as part of a wider coalition of countries. who would also send the German-made vehicle. . A company usually consists of 14 tanks.

A German government spokesman declined to comment.

Ukraine had been pushing for Germany to agree to send tanks at a meeting of defense ministers at the US Ramstein air base in Germany on Friday, but German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius shattered the Kyiv hopes, saying no decision has been made.

Officials in Berlin say, however, that Pistorius, who was only appointed last week, had been actively pushing in the background to achieve a breakthrough on tank delivery.

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