Germany has come under furious attack after it was accused of being “terrified of upsetting Vladimir Putin” in the row over sending game-changing Leopard II tanks to Ukraine to use in the war against Russia. There are around 2,000 Leopard II tanks in armies across a dozen NATO armies, meaning they are ready to be sent to and used in Ukraine as soon as possible. But a furious row erupted after Germany – led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz – dragged its feet and refused to give the go-ahead for fellow allies to send the German-made vehicles to Kyiv.
“This comes down to what we have seen from Germany all the way through this conflict – we have seen fear of antagonising Russia.
“It’s inbuilt in their DNA in a way because they have had such a close relationship with Russia for many years that they are terrified of upsetting Putin even more than he already is.”
Colonel Kemp said Leopard II tanks “are the best in terms of how easy it would be for Ukrainian forces to learn to operate them” and that between 200 and 300 could be deployed “very quickly”.
He went as far as to say: “That makes them very valuable and potentially a battle winner for Ukraine.”
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German Chancellor Mr Scholz had come under increasing pressure to authorise the tanks prior to a meeting on Friday at the US military base of Ramstein, where military support to Ukraine was discussed by 50 countries, including all 30 NATO members.
But over the weekend, when asked what would happen if Warsaw sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Foreign Secretary told French TV station LCI: “For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”
Last week, NATO member Britain said it would send a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks, AS90 guns, hundreds more armoured and protected vehicles, dozens more uncrewed aerial systems, another 100,000 artillery rounds, hundreds more sophisticated missiles.
Denmark has committed to donating 19 French-made Caesar howitzers to Ukraine and Sweden promised to send its Archer artillery system.
Ukrainian President Mr Zelensky has continued to plead with Western allies to ramp up its supply of heavy-duty artillery to the country as the war with Russia reaches a critical stage.
He warned during a speech at the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos via video-link last week: “There are times where we shouldn’t hesitate.
“When someone says ‘I will give tanks if someone else will also share tanks’… I don’t think this is the right strategy to go with.”
Ukrainian Presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak also warned it was “time to stop trembling at Putin and take the final step.”
He wrote on Twitter: “True leadership is about leading by example, not about looking up to others.
“There are no taboos. From Washington to London, from Paris to Warsaw, one thing is said: Ukraine needs tanks; tanks — the key to end war properly. Time to stop trembling at Putin and take the final step.