Defense minister: Giving Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is Scholz's decision

Hanno Pevkur at Ämari Air Base on January 17, 2023/
Hanno Pevkur at Ämari Air Base on January 17, 2023/ Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Despite not reaching an agreement on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, today's defense ministers meeting at Ramstein Air Base was still "good", Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said on Friday. He said the decision to give tanks to Ukraine is stuck behind the German chancellor.

While an agreement was not reached to supply Ukraine with Leopards, Pevkur described the meeting at Ramstein Air Base as good.

The meeting, attended by defense ministers from dozens of countries, was an attempt to create a so-called tank coalition, he said.

"There are quite a lot of countries that made new commitments to Ukraine. These contributions include both tanks and armored vehicles, as well as a great deal of ammunition and other assistance that Ukraine has specifically requested. I don't see this meeting in such a negative light," Pevkur told ERR.

He said Germany's new Minster of Defense Boris Pistorius did not rule out sending tanks "one day". But Pevkur said the decision is not in Pistorius' hands, it is in Chancellor Olaf Scholz's.

Pevkur confirmed the United Kingdom will still send Challenger tanks to Ukraine, and Poland still wants to send Leopard tanks.

He said there are two things that need to be considered. The first is sending enough tanks to make a difference, the second is that they should work together.

"[T]hat they can work together as a brigade-sized unit should — tanks, infantry, support equipment and everything else. So the training has to be given to the Ukrainians along with the equipment. That was one of the messages that came through today," he added.

The minister believes a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later.

Ukrainians must also do all the necessary work to make sure they are ready to use the equipment in the most effective way possible. "Not as individual torpedoes, but as a powerful shockwave," he said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also asked western countries for fighter jets and more missiles. But Pevkur said countries are primarily focused on providing ground forces and teaching them how to operate.

Ministers have met at Ramstein Air Base once a month since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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