Frankfurt, Brussels (22/3 – 55)
The first leopards arrived in Ukraine on Feb 24, marking the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion. It was Poland who has officially delivered Leopard 2 main battle tanks. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during his visit to Kyiv tweeted: “Poland, as the country that was the first to successfully build this coalition of Leopards, today also wants, as the first European country, to give you @ZelenskyyUa the first 4 Leopards.”
The tweet came with a photo of him and Ukrainian Prime Minister, Denys Schmyhal shaking hands in front of the tanks. Poland planned to send fourteen tanks.
Happy with the news, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov didn’t hesitate to climb on top of one of these tanks and tweeted, “Together with Ms @Denys_Shmyhal and @MorawieckiM met new beasties in our Ukrainian military zoo – 4 Leopard2A4!”
Overall, 11 countries have pledged to deliver tanks to Ukraine, according to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Spanish Government announced they would send 10 Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine. Finland also announced it would transfer three Leopard-2 tanks from its stock. Norway has also announced that it would donate eight vehicles and four “special purpose tanks.”
Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson announced Stockholm will send up to 10 Leopard 2A5 tanks. Besides the Leopard 2, Ukraine is set to receive the US Abrams and the British Challenger 2 tanks in the coming months.
Meanwhile, in recent months Germany was accused by many in Europe of being the hold-up for getting main battle tanks sent to Ukraine.
“I see that there is broad support for the strategy and activities of the government,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “We are a democratic country and there are some who worry whether it is a good idea to do all the sanctions and deploy so many weapons to Ukraine. But even the big majority, in the end, accept that the government has to take a responsible decision and trust us in doing what we do.”
Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned following a series of blunders and PR disasters. She was widely criticized for failing to improve Germany’s notoriously ill-equipped armed forces and for having taken her son on a trip in a military helicopter.
The main trigger is the video when Lambrecht talked about the positive personal encounters she had enjoyed during the war in Ukraine, while fireworks exploded around her in Berlin. She was also mocked for her announcement that Germany was supporting Ukraine by sending 5,000 military helmets.
She was replaced by Boris Pistorius. Pistorius defended Scholz against accusations of dithering on whether to approve the delivery of Leopards and insisted there was no division among Ukraine’s Western allies.
Scholz told the Munich Security Conference that he and other political officials had been “canvassing intensively” to convince more countries to make Leopard 2 donations. He also revealed that Berlin’s gift of 14 Leopard 2A6 vehicles is set to deploy in Ukraine “very soon.”
Several media reports and military analysts have cautioned that a few western tanks would not be a game changer in combat against Russia, particularly given that the latter has escalated its ground offensive to seize territories in the eastern Ukraine region.
The Russian military is preparing to destroy these western tanks as soon as they are deployed on the battlefield. Combat robots were assigned to take on western tanks like Leopards and Abrams. Not to mention the fact that Leopard 2 tanks were built in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Are the vehicles still good and reliable?
Meanwhile, in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was battling another war, a corruption scandal within his government. Could Ukraine be strong enough to defend itself on the battlefield?
Ukrainians know that in a matter of weeks, they will be on the front lines, facing off against Russian forces. Ukrainians will soon train on Leopard 2 tanks. The training at a German military base near Munster is part of an effort across Europe to get Ukrainian forces acquainted with the tanks and infantry fighting vehicles they have been promised.
Since the beginning of the war, 600 Ukrainian soldiers have received basic training in Germany, and 1,200 others have been given more specialized instruction. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that more than 10,000 Ukrainian troops had come through Britain for training in the past six months. Many of those serving in Ukraine’s armed forces had not picked up a gun before Russia’s invasion.
The help is coming from the USA, Canada, and Europe. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “We must provide heavier and more advanced systems to Ukraine, and we must do it faster.”