Poland could send Leopard tanks to Ukraine without German OK, PM suggests

UKRAINE-CRISIS-RUSSIA-BALTIC:Russia says European powers should counterbalance 'aggressive' Poland, Baltics
UKRAINE-CRISIS-RUSSIA-BALTIC:Russia says European powers should counterbalance 'aggressive' Poland, Baltics Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023
By Reuters
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WARSAW - Poland's prime minister signalled that it could send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as part of a wider coalition even without Germany's re-export approval, raising pressure on Berlin ahead of a crunch meeting of allies on more military aid for Kyiv.

Warsaw and other NATO allies have been urging Germany to give them the go-ahead to send the German-made tanks to Ukraine amid ever louder Kyiv pleas for heavy weaponry it says is essential to turning the tide against Russia's invasion.

On Friday, Germany and the United States will convene dozens of allies at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base, a meeting billed as a chance to provide the arms to shift the war's momentum in 2023.

"Consent is of secondary importance here, we will either obtain this consent quickly, or we will do what is needed ourselves," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told private broadcaster Polsat News late on Wednesday.

A government spokesman was not immediately available to comment on whether Morawiecki meant Poland or an entire group of countries could send tanks without Germany's consent. Poland had repeatedly signalled that it would only send the tanks as part of a larger coalition.

"The most important thing is for Germany, but not only Germany ..., to offer their modern tanks, their modern heavy weapons, because Ukraine's ability to defend its freedom may depend on that," Morawiecki said.

Germany has been loath to send heavy offensive weapons that could be seen as escalating the Ukraine conflict and has so far withheld re-export approval from its allies to provide Leopard 2 tanks, now a mainstay of allied armies across Europe.

A German government source said Berlin would lift its objections if the United States sent its own Abrams battle tanks to Kyiv.

However, Washington and many Western allies say the Leopards - which Germany made in the thousands during the Cold War and exported to its allies - are the only suitable option available in large enough numbers.

Poland and Finland have already said they would provide Leopards if Germany lifts its veto as part of a wider coalition, and other countries have indicated they are ready to do so too.

Britain added to the pressure on Germany by breaking the taboo on heavy tank deliveries last week, offering Kyiv a squadron from its fleet of Challengers, though far fewer of these are available than Leopards.

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