Poland has said it is willing to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine without approval, but to seek permission from Berlin first, as Kiev pressures its allies for heavy weapons.
European countries on Monday agreed to spend another 500 million euros ($543 million) to arm Kiev for the final push to the multibillion-dollar operation to help Ukraine push back Russian troops.
While numerous countries have pledged military hardware, Kiev is crying out for more advanced and heavier weapons, especially the powerful Leopard 2 – seen as key to breaking through enemy lines.
Berlin, which must authorize the re-export of the tanks to Ukraine, is under fire for failing to make the crucial decision.
After days of mounting pressure and delays, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday that Germany would not stand in the way if Warsaw asked to send Leopard 2 tanks.
“We will seek this approval,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters on Monday.
Morawiecki did not specify when the request will be made to Germany. He said Poland is building a coalition of nations ready to send Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.
“Even if we don’t get such an approval in the end, we will still give our tanks to Ukraine – within a small coalition of countries, even if Germany is not in that coalition,” Morawiecki said.
‘Kill more of our people’
Ukraine, which still uses Soviet-era tanks, has said the world’s indecisiveness is only “killing more of our people”.
Poland announced earlier this month that it was ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Kiev, but was awaiting a clear statement from Berlin approving the transfer.
Berlin has insisted that all allies work together.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman repeated that position on Monday, saying the government “does not rule out” the transfer of the tanks, but added: “It has not yet made a decision.”
Although Berlin provided substantial aid, it has been repeatedly criticized for being too slow to provide military hardware.
German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said it was important for Germany not to take a “reckless” step that it might regret, adding that a decision will not be rushed.
“These are difficult questions of life and death,” he added. “We have to ask ourselves what this means for the defense of our own country.”
Asked how long a decision about sending tanks might take, Hebestreit said: “I suppose it’s not a matter of months now.”
Julian Pawlak, a research fellow at the University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg, said that while many countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have sent several weapons to Ukraine, it is still a long way before they actually reach those 300-tank numbers. send. or 600 infantry fighting vehicles”.
While Ukraine continues to use Soviet-era tanks, at some point in the future, “the numbers will drop and Ukraine will become increasingly dependent on Western ammunition and consequently more on Western resources,” Pawlak told Al Jazeera.
Haunted by its post-World War II guilt, Germany has always acted cautiously when it comes to conflict.
According to Germany’s War Weapons Control Act, Poland and other purchasing countries need Berlin’s approval to transfer the Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
The law is designed to prevent German-made weapons from being used in conflict areas against Germany’s interests.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the latest developments regarding tanks being sent across Western Europe to Ukraine were “a sign of growing nervousness among alliance members”.
On Friday, some 50 countries agreed to supply Kiev with billions of dollars worth of military hardware, including armored vehicles and ammunition needed to push back Russian troops.
European foreign ministers agreed on Monday to spend an additional €500 million to arm Ukraine, diplomats said. This brings the European Union’s total common expenditure to €3.6 billion ($3.9 billion).
Ukraine has called the tanks key to its efforts in the war, which has seen heavy fighting in the east of the country.
Neither side shows signs of retreat as the war enters into a second year.