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After weeks of Germany refusing to allow its Western allies to send their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Berlin has finally authorized Poland to send its German-made Leopard tanks to Kyiv to fight the Russian invasion.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told LCI television after a Franco-German meeting in Paris on Sunday, “If we are asked the question, then we will not stand in the way. We know how important these tanks are, and this is why we are discussing this now with our partners. We need to make sure people’s lives are saved, and Ukraine’s territory is liberated.”
For months, Kyiv has been pleading with the U.S. and its Western allies to send Western-made tanks to the frontlines to assist its effort to resist Russian forces. While all Western allies have been fairly reluctant to provide tanks for fears of an escalation with Russia, Germany has been one of the strongest opposers.
While Berlin is still refusing to send its own tanks to Ukraine amid mounting pressure from Kyiv, Poland has indicated that it is ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Ukrainian troops. However, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had said that he was waiting for a “clear statement” from Germany as to whether or not Western countries with the tanks would be allowed to send them.
Morawiecki has been critical of Germany’s resistance to not only provide its own tanks to Ukraine but also of its hesitancy to allow its allies to do the same calling the previous decision “unacceptable.” He also told the PAP agency that “Innocent people are dying every day.”
Prime ministers from three Baltic states released a joint statement Saturday urging Germany “to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday there was “no alternative” other than for the West to provide tanks to his country.
Last week, Germany indicated that it would not allow other countries to provide Leopard tanks unless the U.S. sent its M1 Abrams tanks as well. The U.S. declined to send tanks citing difficulties with maintenance and training.
While Germany has given Poland the green light to send its Leopard 2 tanks if it chooses to, Baerbock indicated in her comments on Sunday that Poland has yet to make a formal request to Berlin.