US to step in with Ukraine tanks after Germany condemned over snub

Russian propagandist says if we don’t win the world will disappear

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It follows the summit in Ramstein, Germany, on Friday in which Germany and the US both failed to follow the UK’s lead in pledging tanks for the war with Russia.

Germany’s hesitancy is hugely damaging because export licence rules mean that at least 15 other nations willing to deploy German-made Leopard 2 tanks – including Poland and Finland – cannot do so without Berlin’s say-so.

Speaking last night retired Lt Gen Stephen Twitty, deputy commander of United States European Command until last year, said: “There are 2,000 German-made Leopard tanks across Europe. The hope in Washington was that providing these would result in a more simplified logistics chain. It hasn’t happened.

“But I can tell you that the Pentagon is continuing to look into the feasibility of deploying Abrams seriously. They want to do the right thing.”

Though German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has left the door open, his decision to not commit Leopard tanks in time for the spring when they were to be used to break the military stalemate with Russia was resoundingly condemned

In a joint statement foreign ministers of Baltic states Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania yesterday called on Germany to supply Ukraine the tanks “now.”

“This is necessary to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and quickly restore peace in Europe,” said the statement, with Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics stressing that

Germany, as the leading European power, has a special responsibility in this regard.

Germany had pegged its decision on the US.

Rolf Mützenich, parliamentary group leader of Scholz’ own Social Democratic Party, said: “It is important that we always take important steps together – together means above all with the US.”

But this makes a mockery of Germany’s pivotal role in the EU’s so-called “strategic autonomy” ambition, said Luke Coffey of the US-based Hudson Institute

“We all assumed the UK decision to send in Challengers would force the debate for Germany. There are so many Leopards available that US policymakers hoped that using them could streamline the maintenance and logistics chain without bringing Abrams into it.

“That it hasn’t shows how impotent Germany is in terms of EU security and its failure to commit without a similar US move casts serious doubts over the EU’s so-called strategic autonomy ambitions.”

Coffey, once special advisor to former defence secretary Liam Fox, added: “Ultimately we will get there as political pressure continues to build, but it seems that more Ukrainians need to die first. “

The problem is that sending even 20 Abram tanks to assuage German fears is not without its challenges, General Twitty said.

“If you send Abrams in, you’d better be prepared to have a long extensive logistic chain. They’re the best tanks in the world but they break down and their fuel consumption is very high- much more so than Challengers or Leopard. It will require training Ukrainian troops to do it. It will require resources.

“I led the charge to Baghdad from Kuwait in 2003. As good as our tanks were, the number which broke down taught us a big lesson. We were constantly fixing them during that fight.

“My commander was Gen Lloyd Austin, who is now defence secretary. He is all too aware of the real challenges involved.

“But, if they can find a way to make this happen, if they can work out logistics and ensure men are well trained, they will. They want to do the right thing.”

Alexander Lord Senior Eurasia Analyst, Sibylline agreed, adding: “The failure to reach a decision on the provision of main battle tanks is a short-term blow to Kyiv, but ultimately does not shut the door on tank transfers later this year.”

In the meantime, even when combined with the extra armoured vehicles and troop carriers pledged by Germany and the US on Friday, the 14 Challenger tanks which Britain has committed would have “limited impact” on the battlefield without other tanks, he said.

Friday’s summit saw a US package worth £2bn including 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 90 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers, and a German offer worth £880m including defensive weapons such as 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, 7 Gerard anti-aircraft tanks and a Patriot air defence missile system.

Reasons for Germany’s reluctance to send tanks range from fear of Russian reprisals to a desire to maintain relations with its neighbour in the future. Some experts believe it is borne from a historical legacy which last saw German Panzers pitched against Russian tanks during the Second World War in the bitter battles on the Eastern Front which constituted the largest military confrontation in history.

But members of his political coalition did not hide their bitter disappointment.

“History is looking at us, and unfortunately Germany has just failed,” said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chairwoman of the Defence Committee in the Bundestag.

“At the very least, it would have been the right thing to give our partners the green light.”

Last week, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki threatened to send its Leopard tanks even without German permission.

Such a move could result in a bitter diplomatic row or even Germany’s withdrawal to provide maintenance and spare parts.

But this was unlikely, said Dr Maria Miron, of the Department of War Studies at KCL.

“Unlike Switzerland, which has also refused to allow clients to pass on ammunition, both Germany and Poland are part of the EU’s defence mechanism. So who will enforce punishment?

And what condition would it leave Germany’s arms industry? “

She added: “Putin already considers this a war against Nato. His goal is to destroy Nato countries internally, he has probably been having a good laugh this week.”

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