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German government split over sending tanks to Ukraine as Scholz overrules foreign minister

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The German government appeared to be split about sending tanks to Ukraine on Monday evening after chancellor Olaf Scholz overruled his own foreign minister by insisting that Poland had to follow the established rules to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. On Sunday, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock had said that Berlin would not “stand in the way” of Warsaw sending the tanks to Kyiv.

However, on Monday a spokesman for Mr Scholz said that Poland would have to follow the “established procedure” to export the German tanks to Ukraine.

Mr Scholz is facing increasing pressure from a growing number of NATO allies who want to send the tanks to Ukraine.

Poland, has held talks with around 15 other nations has announced that it will apply for permission to export the tanks.

Berlin has also been warned that it risked it’s reputation for “reliability” as a key pillar of European collective defence if Mr Scholz delayed his decision anymore.

Ukrainian officials have prioritised the delivery of the Leopard 2 tanks for months due to their availability in more than a dozen NATO member states across Europe.

However, Germany has been reluctant to export the tanks due to concerns that it could escalate the war in Ukraine further.

In recent weeks Berlin has indicated that it would only send the tanks if the USA also sent its M1 Abrams tanks.

On Sunday, in what appeared to be a policy shift, Ms Baerbock told France’s LCI television that Berlin would not prevent Warsaw sending its contingent of Leopard Tanks to Ukraine.

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In recent weeks Berlin has indicated that it would only send the tanks if the USA also sent its M1 Abrams tanks.

On Sunday, in what appeared to be a policy shift, Ms Baerbock told France’s LCI television that Berlin would not prevent Warsaw sending its contingent of Leopard Tanks to Ukraine.

She said: “For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”

The comments caused confusion amongst allies as they appeared to contradict Berlin’s earlier policy.

However Mr Scholz’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit clarified that Poland and other countries who wished to export the tanks would have to follow the established rules for doing so.

He said: “If such an application is made in Germany, and it hasn’t so far, then there are established procedures for dealing with it, and we are sticking to them.”

Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and Norway have all indicated they are willing to send their Leopards to Ukraine.

Under the original purchase contracts with Germany they first have to eek permission for a change of “end user” certificates before transfers can be legally made.

Ahead of a ministerial meeting in Brussels on Monday politicians from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania signed a joint statement calling on Berlin to “provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now. Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard”.



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