Switzerland reveals Germany’s proposal for a tank deal


Berlin wants to buy decommissioned Leopard 2s and at the same time donate part of its own stock to Kiev

Germany has asked Switzerland to sell decommissioned Leopard 2 battle tanks back to their manufacturer Rheinmetall so that Berlin can replenish its supplies after donating some of its own tanks to Ukraine, Swiss authorities said on Friday. The German-made heavy tanks were originally purchased by Bern in the 1980s.

Lorenz Frischknecht, spokesman for the Swiss Federal Defense Ministry, confirmed the request to the Swiss newspaper Blick, which first reported the story on Friday. “From the military’s point of view, it would in principle be possible to dispense with a limited number of main battle tanks, minus those needed for Switzerland’s own needs.” Frischknecht said.

According to Blick, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and Economy Minister Robert Habeck formally proposed the plan to buy back 96 tanks in a letter to Viola Amherd, the top Swiss defense official, on Feb. 23. They allegedly promised that the combat vehicles in question would not be sent to Ukraine. The newspaper noted that the Alpine country needs 34 of the decommissioned tanks for its own defense.

Frischknecht said the military has begun studying the matter. The final decision is up to the Federal Assembly, the country’s parliament. Arne Collatz, the spokesman for the German Defense Ministry, confirmed to reporters that Berlin was interested in the Swiss tanks, but the exact number has not yet been determined.

Although Germany and other NATO members promised to deliver Leopard 2s to Ukraine earlier this year, some European countries have since reportedly struggled to find available vehicles in their stockpiles. Pistorius said he did last month “a little shocked” that some partners “did nothing” about the issue.

Switzerland, which follows a centuries-old policy of neutrality, has been reluctant to allow its weapons to be re-exported to conflict zones.

The Swiss government has previously refused to give the go-ahead for the transfer of two Swiss 35mm anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine from Spain and about 20 Piranha III armored vehicles from Denmark. In February, the safety committee of the upper house of the Swiss parliament rejected a proposal to return 30 retired Leopard tanks to Germany, citing the need to maintain a strategic reserve.

Moscow has maintained that foreign weapons will not change the course of the conflict in Ukraine and will be treated as legitimate targets by Russian forces.

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