Olaf Scholz under pressure to release Leopard II tanks to Ukraine after Poland and Finland pledge

Germany holds the export licence for Leopard II tanks, so must approve any shipment to Ukraine - Detmar Modes/AP
Germany holds the export licence for Leopard II tanks, so must approve any shipment to Ukraine – Detmar Modes/AP

Pressure is building on Germany to release Leopard II tanks to Ukraine after Finland and Poland pledged to send Europe’s most fearsome tank to fight the Russian army.

Germany manufactures Leopard II tanks and also holds the export licence for them, meaning Berlin must approve any shipment of the tanks to Ukraine or elsewhere.

After both the Finnish and Polish governments signalled their desire to send Leopard II vehicles to Ukraine, Lars Klingbeil, a German MP and part of the ruling coalition, said the government wouldn’t be bounced into a deal and that no countries “were yet delivering heavy battle tanks” to Ukraine.

Guy Verhofstadt, a high-profile MEP and a former Belgian prime minister, said that pressure was building on Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, to approve a deal.

“There is nowhere for the German Government to hide. Mr Scholz must act to authorise Leopard tanks to Ukraine, as the European Parliament has requested,” he said.

There is growing pressure on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to approve a deal for the Leopard II tanks - Sergey Dolzhenko/Shutterstock
There is growing pressure on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to approve a deal for the Leopard II tanks – Sergey Dolzhenko/Shutterstock

The Leopard II tank is one of the most feared tanks in the world because of its high mobility and armour. Analysts have said that it would give Ukraine an edge in battles as it outclasses Russia’s T-72 tanks and is close to being the world’s “gold standard” tank.

Earlier this week, France and Germany pledged to send fighting infantry vehicles to Ukraine as well as a Patriot air defence system but analysts have said Ukraine requires the Leopard II tanks to defeat Russia.

Earlier this week, Volodymyr Zelensky pressed for Western tanks to be handed over to Ukraine.

“There is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with western-type tanks,” said the Ukrainian president.

Mr Scholz has previously allowed Leopard II tanks to be given to countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic to replace Soviet-era T-72 tanks they gave to Ukraine earlier in the war.

But Slawomir Debski, director of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, said that European governments effectively now had to wait for permission from Mr Scholz before they could supply Ukraine with Leopard II tanks.

“Germany has to green light it and that would mean that they cannot stand by while other allies supply Ukraine with German tanks,” he said. “That’s the reason why Scholz has been blocking the idea so far.”

The Leopard range of tanks was first developed in the 1970s in Germany by the Munich-based manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and is now widely used by European armies, although not by the British Army,

It was specially designed to combat Russia’s T-72 tanks on the wide open plains of eastern Europe and it quickly gained a reputation for being both tough and destructive.

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