WASHINGTON — Germany will supply legacy Leopard 2 tanks to Slovakia in exchange for that country sending Soviet-era fighting vehicles to Ukraine’s aid, the Defence Ministry in Berlin announced.
The deal is one of several “ring swaps,” as German defense officials call them, in the making with Eastern European governments since the spring, following Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine, which began in earnest Feb. 24. Slovak and German officials signed an agreement Aug. 23 approving the delivery of 15 Leopard 2 tanks in the A4 configuration to Bratislava.
The tanks, owned by German industry, are meant to restock Slovakia’s arsenal with Western equipment. The former East bloc nation will donate 30 tracked BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles — considered one weight class below battle tanks — to Ukraine, Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said Tuesday, according to Reuters.
German officials said the Leopard 2 deal is meant to close “part of the gap” in Slovakia’s reduced defense capabilities resulting from the donation to Ukraine. Germany, with help from the Netherlands and the United States, previously backfilled a Patriot air defense battery after Slovakia earmarked one of its S-300 missile defense weapons for Ukraine.
Germany’s tank package also includes ammunition, training and spare parts. The first Leopard 2s are meant to arrive in Slovakia later this year, officials said.
“Slovakia will give infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine as soon as possible,” said German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht, noting that Ukrainian soldiers are familiar with operating those vehicles. Lambrecht described the ring swap mechanism as a “sensible” path, besides Berlin’s direct equipment deliveries, for supporting Ukraine’s “fight for survival.”
Germany’s level of military aid for Ukraine remains a topic of discussion among policymakers within the governing coalition. Critics have said Berlin should send more weapons, especially given manufacturers are sitting on a sizable pool of legacy equipment that they snapped up during decades of budget cuts and shrinking of armed forces.
The government has also pledged brand-new weapons for Ukraine, like the Vulcano 155mm precision-guided artillery munition, as well as the IRIS-T air defense weapon. One such system is already listed as a potential transfer in a running list of support deliveries published by the government.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday raised the prospect of providing three additional IRIS-T systems, Der Spiegel reported.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.