Ukraine invasion: Poland wants more tanks for Ukraine

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As Poland pushes its Western allies to move faster on supplying Kyiv with more military hardware to thwart Russia’s invasion, it government said it would ask Berlin for permission to send German-built Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Germany has hesitated over sending tanks to Ukraine. But Polish officials took heart from the German foreign minister’s remarks on Sunday that Berlin wouldn’t seek to stop Poland from providing Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki didn’t specify at a news conference Monday when the request to Germany will be made. He said that Poland is building a coalition of nations ready to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.

Poland needs the consent of Germany, which builds the tanks, to send them to a non-NATO country.

But even if there is no permission from Germany, Warsaw will make its own decisions, Morawiecki said Poland has become a leading advocate in the European Union for giving Ukraine the military aid that could help it prevail over the Kremlin’s invading forces 11 months after the war started. Germany’s hesitation has drawn criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel especially threatened by Russia’s renewed aggression.

Berlin, though it has provided substantial aid, has been criticized for dragging its feet on providing military hardware.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said Monday it was important for Germany not to take a “reckless” step that might be regretted afterward, adding that a decision will not be rushed.

“These are hard questions of life and death,” he added. “We have to ask what this means for the defense of our own country.”

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Pressed on how long a decision on sending tanks might take, Hebestreit said: “I assume that it’s not a question of months now.”

The Ukrainian government says that tanks, and especially the Leopards, are vital to Kyiv’s war effort.

Previously, Polish officials have indicated that Finland and Denmark were ready to join Warsaw in sending Leopards to Ukraine. The United Kingdom has pledged to send some of its Challenger tanks. French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that he doesn’t rule out sending Leclerc battle tanks to Ukraine and had asked his defense minister to “work on” the idea.

But Macron said that a decision hinged on three criteria that have also weighed on the minds of other Western leaders: that sharing the equipment doesn’t lead to an escalation of the conflict, that it would provide efficient and workable help when training time is taken into account, and that it wouldn’t weaken his country’s own military.

Morawiecki said that while Poland intends to ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the request is “a secondary matter” as a group of EU countries look at how to help Kyiv.

“Even if, eventually, we do not get this permission, we — within this small coalition — even if Germany is not in this coalition, we will hand over our tanks, together with the others, to Ukraine,” he said.

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Morawiecki said talks have also been held “with our partners in Brussels” on the subject, referring to the 27-nation EU bloc.

“Naturally, these are not easy talks, but we will be taking efforts to break this barrier of unwillingness in various countries,” he said.

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