WASHINGTON — The German government is expected to announce Wednesday a decision to support Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks, as Washington is considering a similar move with Abrams tanks, according to media reports in Germany.
The decision by the government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, first reported by Der Spiegel this afternoon and since confirmed by other outlets, would end weeks of hesitation that critics used to paint Berlin as indifferent about Ukraine, despite Germany’s substantial military contributions to the war-torn country.
The number of Leopard 2 tanks under consideration is 14, enough to equip a company, according to reports.
Along with the decision to send German tanks, government officials also are expected to clear export requests to send Leopards by other nations. Polish leaders said they filed such a request on Tuesday after weeks of saying Warsaw would proceed regardless of Germany’s decision.
Export control regulations of Germany and other Western nations state that the originating country must approve onward movement of weapons throughout their life cycle.
Meanwhile, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung media outlet that his government is considering giving Ukraine 18 Leopard 2 tanks leased from Germany. “We leased them, which means we can buy them and donate them,” he told the newspaper.
Previously, the U.K. government announced it would send 12 Challenger 2 heavy tanks to Ukraine.
Germany’s expected announcement on tanks could clear the way for other countries in Europe to follow suit, as officials there fear a Russian spring offensive in the coming months. Ukrainian leaders have said they want to use donated weapons to expel Russian forces from all of Ukraine.
The debate, often shrill in its tone, over whether modern tanks represent an escalation of the war with Russia, and whether they make sense militarily, has threatened to undo the Western unity that Ukraine’s allies had worked hard to cultivate since the start of Moscow’s assault almost a year ago.
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.