US, Germany stuck in standoff over sending tanks to Ukraine — media reports

Berlin has not changed its position on tanks, despite pressure from Washington
Berlin has not changed its position on tanks, despite pressure from Washington

The relevant issue was discussed between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his German counterpart, Boris Pistorius, ahead of a key meeting of Western defense leaders in Berlin, Germany, on Jan. 20.

Read also: Netherlands prepared to cover cost of transferring Leopard tanks to Ukraine

U.S. officials familiar with the situation told CNN on Jan. 19 that the tank question is still undecided ahead of the meeting on Jan. 20, and that it would be surprising if Germany changed its mind, despite Austin’s private pressure campaign.

At the same time, ahead of the meeting between Austin and Pistorius, the United States was “very optimistic that we will make progress” on the tanks question, a senior U.S. defense official said.

Following numerous Ukrainian requests, Poland has decided to transfer German-made Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine, Polish President Andrzej Duda said during his visit to Lviv, Ukraine, on Jan. 11, where he met with his Ukrainian and Lithuanian counterparts, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Gitanas Nauseda.

Read also: White House comments on Scholz's demand that Washington move first on tank supplies to Ukraine

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has also indicated his country’s willingness to supply a small number of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

However, Germany’s consent will be necessary for these deliveries, as it has final say over the re-export of German-made arms.

Still, German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck last week said that Berlin would not stand in the way if Warsaw decided to send their own Leopard 2 battle tanks to Kyiv, though German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country would continue to “weigh every step carefully” on further weapons supply to Ukraine.

On Jan. 17, the Reuters news agency reported that at Davos, Germany’s partners increased pressure on Chancellor Scholz to allow the transfer of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Read also: Tragic heli crash kills child, Interior Minister, German Leopards only for U.S. Abrams

German media reported on Jan. 18 that Chancellor Scholz had told U.S. President Joe Biden that Berlin will allow shipments of German-made Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine if the United States decides to make Abrams tanks available to Kyiv.

However, the United States has previously said that the supply of Abrams tanks to Ukraine is unlikely.

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