Germany faces pressure to approve leopard tanks for Ukraine

Defense officials say one of the priorities of Friday’s Ukraine Defense Contact Group is to pressure Germany to hand over or allow other countries to commit to German-made weapons. leopard tanks a Ukraine.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Germany this week to meet with the country’s new Defense Minister Boris Pistorious and to hold the eighth meeting of some 50 defense ministers to discuss capabilities to be provided to Ukraine before of the expected Russian spring offensive.

On the sidelines of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group meeting on Friday, there is expected to be a meeting of more than 10 countries to discuss the issue of tanks.

Until now, Germany has been reluctant to approve the shipment of its own leopards or to approve the transfer to third parties of German-made leopards found in other countries, such as Finland, Denmark and Poland.

Boris Pistorius is sworn in as the new German Defense Minister and meets with US Secretary of Defense Austin

A defense official told reporters on Wednesday that the United States is “optimistic” that there will be progress on this issue by the end of the week.

Ukraine has also requested Abrams tanks from the US, but US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said we are “not quite there yet” on that request.

“The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. It’s expensive. It’s hard to train…it’s not the easiest system to maintain,” Kahl told reporters on Wednesday.

Defense officials have argued that the Abrams tank requires extensive maintenance and consumes a lot of gasoline, requiring three gallons of jet fuel for every mile. The high cost of the Abrams doesn’t make sense right now, officials say, but German-made Leopards are suitable for Ukraine.

Kahl noted that the UK has recently committed to sending Challenger main battle tanks and France has committed AMX-10s, known as light tanks, to Ukraine.

“I think if there’s a concern of being alone to provide this capability, that shouldn’t be a concern,” Kahl said. “But at the end of the day, you know, the German government is going to make a sovereign decision.”

The Biden administration announced a roughly $2.5 billion aid package for Ukraine on Thursday, which included more armored vehicles but no tanks.

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