Although Helsinki is willing to give some of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, their supply will ultimately depend on the German military industry and the government in Berlin, Finnish Defense Minister Mikko Savola said on Monday.
“It very much depends on the leadership of Germany how we act with these Leopard tanks,” Savola told Reuters. “A German export license is required for this, and the German defense industry also has a very strong role in how replacement equipment can be obtained.”
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said last week that his country could donate some of its German-made tanks to Ukraine, but only as part of a wider European coalition. This followed a statement by Polish President Andrzej Duda that Kiev will definitely get it “a company” of leopards as part of a Warsaw-led advance.
However, such a transfer would require legal permission from Berlin, and so far it has not been granted. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday demanded the Germans act quickly, arguing that Ukraine’s defeat could mean Russian defeat. “invasion” from other EU countries and a Third World War.
Savola said Finland will discuss the tank issue later this week, perhaps at a meeting of “like-minded countries” in Estonia, and on Friday during the meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Germany.
There is currently no defense minister in Berlin, as Christine Lambrecht officially resigned on Monday. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not yet appointed her replacement.
Meanwhile, tank manufacturer Rheinmetall has warned it could take a year to make the Leopards suitable for Ukrainian service. The project would also cost hundreds of millions of euros, Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger claimed in an interview over the weekend. Papperger said eventually up to 110 tanks could be refurbished, 88 of which are the older Leopard 1 models. Ukrainian officials have said they need at least 300.
Moscow has repeatedly warned the US and its allies that sending weapons to Kiev will prolong the conflict but will not change the outcome. German tanks “will burn like the rest” of Western weapons, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.
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