Western nations have failed to agree on a deal to send much-needed Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, despite holding a summit in Germany.
The WE and its allies hoped to convince Berlin to authorize the use of the powerful combat tanks by Kyiv to help Ukraine fight back against Russia.
The UK has already agreed to send 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, hoping to push Germany to return the favor, while Poland has declared itself ready to send a number of its Leopard 2s if Berlin, which holds the export license, agrees.
On Friday, representatives from more than 50 allied nations gathered at a US air base in Germany for a meeting Ukrainian defense chiefs hoped to finally end the long back and forth.
Kyiv says the tanks will boost its armed forces’ ability to launch offensive operations against entrenched Russian positions.
But the Ramstein Air Base summit ended without a tank deal, despite pleas from Kyiv officials.
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At the end of the talks, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that Kyiv would have to keep fighting to ensure they have enough heavy armor.
But he said the Ramstein meeting, which instead resulted in billions of dollars in commitments, would build Ukraine’s resilience.
“Yes, we will still have to fight for the delivery of modern tanks, but every day we show more clearly that there is no alternative to decision-making regarding tanks,” he said. .
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who attended the summit alongside his Ukrainian and German counterparts, said Ukraine was well equipped even without the Leopard 2s.
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He announced a $2.5bn (£2bn) package of military aid ahead of Friday’s talks, including Stryker armored personnel carriers and more Bradley fighting vehicles.
Sources in Germany have suggested that Berlin might change its reluctance to allow Leopard tanks to be sent to Ukraine, if the United States also sends its Abrams tanks.
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Defense chief Boris Pistorius – who only took office this week after his predecessor was forced to resign – defended his country’s position and insisted that Germany ‘has no fear’ by authorizing the use of Leopard 2.
“We just have a responsibility to our people in Germany and Europe and we have to balance all the pros and cons before deciding on such things,” Pistorius said.
Why does Ukraine want Leopard 2 tanks?
The Ukrainians have a lot of tanks, but they are also T tanks, mainly the T-64 and T-72, which are old and vulnerable to Russian attacks. To repel a spring Russian offensive, they need modern battle tanks that are much better protected, faster and more deadly.
The best tank for Ukraine would be the German-made Leopard 2. Tanks are rated on their ability to hit other targets and their resistance to attacks.
The Leopard 2 moves fast, has advanced targeting, and is well protected with armor. It is also, crucially, operated by 14 European countries, so spare parts are widely available.
Britain sends Challengers – a very capable tank – but the UK can only spare a dozen. Ukraine wants 300 tanks. Experts say if he gets 100, that will be enough to make a difference. Learn more here.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleskii Reznikov said on Twitter that he had “a frank discussion” with Mr Pistorius on Friday about the supply of Leopard tanks, adding that talks would continue.
Meanwhile, senior US military officer General Mark Milley attempted to show his unity.
“I think in my 43 years in uniform, this is the most unified NATO I have ever seen,” General Milley said.