Germany has agreed to send 14 tanks to Ukraine following months of hesitancy that have drawn attention to Nato divisions over the extent of the alliance’s involvement in the war.
Kyiv hopes that the delivery of Germany’s sought-after Leopard 2 battle tanks will be a “game-changer on the battlefield” and that the US will follow suit, said the BBC. But Berlin has been mired in lengthy “political debate” about whether the tanks would “escalate the conflict and make Nato a direct party to the war with Russia”.
And more widespread wrangling over the response to the Ukraine invasion has “exposed vulnerabilities in Western defense”, argued Tobias Ellwood, chair of the UK’s Defence Select Committee.
A German government spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that the country would send the Leopard 2 tanks and permit their re-exports by partner nations. Washington is also expected to announce plans to send at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks.
Kyiv has been “pleading for months” for Western nations to send tanks that could give its forces the “firepower and mobility” to break through Russian defensive lines and recapture occupied territory, said Sky News.
The delay said The Telegraph, “exposed a major rift in Germany’s ruling coalition” and “stoked concerns that Berlin is sabotaging Ukraine’s chances of victory”.
In an article for the same newspaper, Ellwood and retired Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said Germany risked “permanently damaging their reputation amongst Nato members”. There was also “a worrying absence of international leadership as to how we collectively respond”, the duo added.
Germany’s position has “reignited a debate within Nato about arming the embattled government in Kyiv”, said Matthew Sussex, an associate professor at the Australian National University, on The Conversation.
“Is it an obligation or a risky move? What types of weapons should be provided? And what might be the repercussions in terms of a potential response from Russia, the future of European security, and, ultimately, the credibility of the West?”
Germany is already a huge donor to Ukraine’s war effort. The economic powerhouse has given Ukraine more military aid than any other country apart from the US and UK. But Berlin’s initial refusal to send heavy battle tanks “opened the first serious crack in what had been Nato’s solid front”, said The Washington Post, and gave Vladimir Putin an opportunity for exploitation “not only on the battlefield but also in the parallel conflict zone of European public opinion”.
Support within Germany is reportedly split almost equally on whether sending German-made battle tanks to Ukraine is a good idea.
But according to The New York Times, many suspect that the key issue for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “is that he does not believe the world is ready to see German tanks near the borders of Russia, a reminder of the Nazi invasion” in the Second World War.