Zelensky speaks at Western Defence Meeting
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Germany has been accused of “craven political cowardice” over their refusal to allow their Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to the battlefield despite more than 2,000 of the vital vehicles being stationed around Ukraine. While 50 NATO and Western forces backing Kyiv against their Russian invaders debate how to further support Ukraine on Friday, Germany has continued to deny the use of their main battle tanks, a piece of equipment that has been requested above all else by the defending forces and would likely prove instrumental to victory against Putin’s forces. British military analyst Professor Michael Clarke accused German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of being “indecisive” and “frightened of Russia”, suggesting that a failure to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine amounted to showing that Russia is “capable of blackmailing a major European power”.
Speaking to the Express.co.uk while the Ukraine Defense Contact Group spoke at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Professor Clakre accused Mr Scholz of “throwing a spanner in the works of NATO and the European Union”.
By refusing to waive the German licence on the Leopard 2 tanks, preventing fellow supporters of Ukraine from sending their iterations of the main battle tank, Chancellor Scholz is “proving that Germany is frightened of Russia”, Professor Clarke said.
Ahead of Russia’s planned offensive in spring, for which hundreds of thousands of Putin’s newly-mobilised soldiers are expected to arrive on the frontlines, analysts, Western officials and Ukrainian war generals, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have highlighted the vital importance of Leopard 2 tanks being sent to the battlefield.
Ukrainian MP Andrii Osadchuk told Express.co.uk on Friday morning that without them, Ukraine as a nation was at risk of “dying”, while Mr Zelensky told the Ramstein attendees via videocall that it was “in your power” to determine the outcome of the war.
Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have all publicly said on Thursday and Friday that they are willing to send their Leopard 2 models to Ukraine pending German approval.
Britain pledged to send a company of their Challenger 2 main battle tanks, a marginally less sophisticated version of the Leopard 2s, last week in an effort to exert political pressure on Germany to waive their licence arrangement.
But on Wednesday, Chancellor Scholz allegedly told US lawmakers that Germany had no plans to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, nor would they permit other countries to do so.
Should countries in possession of the German-made tanks proceed without Mr Scholz’s approval, they would risk defence contracts with Germany being permanently cancelled, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to foreign attacks.
On Friday morning, Professor Clarke said of the situation: “If Scholz does not go along with this NATO consensus that we have now got to send main battle tanks, and the Leopard 2 is easily the most appropriate to send, then it shows that blackmail works.
“It shows that Russian aggression and Russian rhetoric is capable of blackmailing a major European power and throwing a spanner in the works of NATO and the European Union.
“For all that they say about strategic importance and strategic ambitions, it proves that Germany is frightened of Russia.
“Quite apart from the tank issue, that is a very, very bad message to send to the Kremlin, that we will give in to your threats, that we are frightened of you.
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“I don’t think Scholz will dig his toes in on everything but if he does, then I think that would be an act of craven political cowardice, straight political cowardice. There is no other word for it.”
As the meeting at Ramstein Air Base proceeds today, it will become evident whether Germany has relented to the political pressure.
The reports from this week, however, suggest that German hesitation to afford full-fledged, offensive support to Ukraine is unlikely to abate.
In war, Professor Clarke concluded, there are multiple “turning points” upon which the direction of a conflict can be forever changed, for better or for worse.
The conclusions of Friday’s Ramstein meeting, and whether Germany will forgo its reluctance to allow Leopard 2 tanks into Ukraine, could have profound consequences on not just the outcome of this conflict, but the state of NATO as a strategic and military entity.
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