U.S., Germany try to resolve differences over tanks for Ukraine

  • Germany’s Leopard tanks look perfect for Ukraine.
  • All eyes are on Germany at a meeting of defense leaders on Friday.
  • Austin in Germany, to meet with the new defense minister
  • Wagner mercenaries from Russia claim to have captured the village.

Kyiv/BERLIN, Jan 19 (Reuters) – The United States and Germany tried on Thursday to resolve a standoff that has so far prevented the West from sending heavy tanks to Ukraine, as Kyiv requested arms support. against the Russian forces

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius spoke in Berlin hours after Pistorius was sworn in.

But there was no word on whether they had resolved differences that could lead to Berlin blocking Western plans to send heavy tanks to Kyiv when dozens of allies gather at Ramstein, Washington’s main European air base, on Friday. .

The Ramstein meeting is expected to pledge billions of dollars worth of military aid, giving the West an opportunity to give Ukraine what it needs to defeat Russia in 2023.

Countries including Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden have already announced armored vehicles and air defenses.

But the big question will be whether the meeting will bring heavy tanks, which Kyiv says it needs to stop Russian attacks and recapture occupied land.

“We don’t have time, the world doesn’t have this time,” Ukrainian presidential administration chief Andriy Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app on Thursday.

He said that the issue of tanks for Ukraine should be closed as soon as possible. “We are paying for the slowdown with the lives of our Ukrainian people. This should not happen.”

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Berlin has so far prevented the Allies from sending its Leopard 2 tanks, the workhorse of troops across Europe. Washington and many Western allies say the Leopards – which Germany built by the thousands during the Cold War and exported to its allies – are the only viable option available in sufficient numbers.

A German government source said Berlin would raise its objection if Washington sent its Abrams tanks. But U.S. officials say they have no plans yet to send the Abrams, which runs on powerful turbine engines that use a lot of fuel to supply Kyiv’s strained logistics system to the front.

Not normal times.

Both Pistorius and Austin talked about the importance of supporting Ukraine before their meeting, but neither directly addressed the tank issue.

At a ceremony after the swearing in, Pistorius said: “These are not normal times, we are at war in Europe. Russia is waging a brutal war of destruction on Ukraine, a sovereign country.”

Austin described Germany as one of Washington’s closest allies and thanked it for its support for Ukraine so far.

Poland and Finland have already said they will send leopards if Germany lifts its veto. In a sign of growing desperation, Poland suggested it could do so even if Germany tried to stop it.

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“Consent is of secondary importance here. We will either get this consent quickly, or we will do what is needed ourselves,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told private broadcaster Polsit News late Wednesday.

Russia has threatened escalation in response to the prospect of more weapons for Kyiv. Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Vladimir Putin who served as president from 2008-2012 when Putin took a break to serve as prime minister, is one of Moscow’s clearest threats to nuke Ukraine if he loses. will use

“The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war can lead to a nuclear war,” Medvedev said. “Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fortunes depended.”

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz, a Social Democrat, is reluctant to send provocative weapons to Moscow. Many of Berlin’s Western allies say the concern is misplaced, with Russia already fully committed to war.

There are signs of friction within Germany’s governing coalition. Schulz’s deputy, Robert Habeck, from his coalition partners the Greens, said last week that Germany would not stand in the way of other countries sending leopards to Ukraine.

Marie-Agnes Struck-Zimmerman, from the centrist Free Democrats, a third party in the coalition, said Schulz must be careful to avoid dividing Europe.

“This can be done with a clear message to Vladimir Putin. Anyone who wants to destroy our system will have to deal with all of us democrats,” he said.

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Tying the Cheetah to American Abrams tanks could put the onus on Washington. Colin Cahill, a top Pentagon policy adviser, said Wednesday that Abrams tanks are unlikely to be included in Washington’s next $2 billion military aid package, headlined by Stryker and Bradley armored vehicles.

“The Abrams tank is a very complex piece of equipment. It’s expensive. It’s hard to train. It has a jet engine.”

Both Ukraine and Russia have relied primarily on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, which have been destroyed by the hundreds in the 11-month battle. Kyiv says the better-armed and safer Western tanks will provide its troops with mobile firepower to repel Russian troops in decisive battles.

After major Ukrainian breakthroughs in the second half of 2022, the front lines have largely frozen over the past two months, with neither side making major gains despite heavy casualties in intense trench warfare.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the private Russian mercenary force Wagner, which has played a key role in the fighting near the eastern city of Bakhmut, claimed on Thursday that his forces had captured the village of Klishcheva on the outskirts of Bakhmut. Keef has previously denied that a settlement has fallen through. Reuters could not confirm the situation there.

Reuters Bureau reporting; Written by Peter Graf; Edited by Simon Cameron Moore and Angus McSwan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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