Leopards are finally free, and in the company of Abrams tanks

January 25,2023 762
Leopards are finally free, and in the company of Abrams tanks

It looks like a dam breakthrough: both Germany and the United States said Tuesday they would send their main battle tanks to Ukraine – after months of reluctance, hesitation and debates.

“The decision has been made: Germany will deliver Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine,” Spiegel reported, saying that at least one Leopard 2A6 company from Bundeswehr stocks is involved. BBC mentions at least 14 tanks.

Moreover, Germany’s federal government wants to grant permission to other states that own Leopard 2 tanks to export such tanks to Ukraine, according to Spiegel.

On the other side of the Atlantic, U.S. officials announced a plan to send up to 50 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, The New York Times reported, calling it “a major step in arming Kyiv as it tries to seize back its territory from Russia.”

“It could take years before those tanks reach Ukraine, but the announcement would clear the way for Germany and other countries to send their battle tanks,” NYT points out.

“German officials have privately insisted that the country would send the tanks only if the U.S. agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks. Publicly, American and German officials have denied that the two issues were linked,” NYT says.

A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told NYT that the number of Abrams tanks could be about 30.

The two breakthrough decisions were preceded by a worldwide Free the Leopards campaign, which certainly helped both Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Joe Biden make up their minds on the issue. The Ukrainian World Congress, which was actively involved in the action, thanks Ukrainian communities and friends of Ukraine who rallied in many countries, demanding to provide Ukraine with tanks and other weaponry it needs to clear its territory of the Russian invaders.

At first glance, some 14 tanks from Germany and up to 50 from the United States do not look like a game changer in the war against the aggressor that has thousands of tanks. However, they give the green light for other countries to supply their main battle tanks to Ukraine.

Poland is ready to deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks.

The Netherlands considers buying 18 Leopard 2s it leases from Germany to give them to Ukraine.

Norway can provide Ukraine with eight such tanks.

Spain is planning to repair around 40 of its Leopard 2s for Ukraine within a month.

And Finland will be able to transfer to Ukraine an unspecified number of its German-made tanks.

As for Germany per se, the number of tanks it will deliver to Ukraine can turn out much more than 14, as the armaments group Rheinmetall told RND it could deliver a total of 139 Type 1 and Type 2 Leopard tanks within a year, including 29 Leopard 2A4s by April/May 2023.

And for good measure, the United Kingdom has already decided to give Ukraine 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, whereas France is considering the delivery of its Leclercs.

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