January 24, 2023 08:11
Poland's prime minister said Monday that his country is building a coalition of nations ready to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine even if Germany does not give formal permission for such transfers.
Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters that Poland will seek Germany's permission, but that asking for Berlin's approval is of secondary importance.
"We are constantly exerting pressure on the government in Berlin to make its Leopards available," Morawiecki said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French TV channel LCI Sunday that if Poland were to request permission to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, "We would not stand in the way."
Until Baerbock's comments, Germany had been reticent to send its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine or approve their transfer by countries that purchased the tanks from Germany.
Ukraine has long sought heavy tanks to combat Russian forces using more modern tanks than those in Ukraine's arsenal.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote Monday on Telegram that what Ukraine needs is not 10-20 tanks, "but several hundred" in order to achieve its goal.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the debate among European countries about whether to send Ukraine tanks showed "increasing nervousness" within NATO. He also warned that countries supplying weapons to Ukraine "will carry responsibility for that."
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday did not say whether Germany would agree to provide Ukraine with battle tanks, but the Reuters news agency reported that he said such decisions would be made in coordination with allies including the United States.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he does not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine. He cautioned, however, that sending tanks must not endanger France's security or escalate the war between Ukraine and Russia.
British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said Sunday in an interview with Sky News he would like to see the Ukrainians "equipped with things like the Leopard 2."
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, the newly installed Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC's "This Week" that the United States should offer its heavy Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine to encourage Germany to send its Leopard 2s as well.
"Just one Abrams tank would be enough to prompt allies, notably Germany, to unlock their own tank inventories for the fight against Russia," he said.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons also told ABC that it was time to set aside U.S. concerns about delivering the Abrams.
"I respect that our military leaders think the Abrams is too sophisticated, too expensive a platform to be as useful as the Leopards, but we need to continue to work with our close allies and move forward in lock step."
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