Germany's Decision on Sending Leopard 2 Tanks to Ukraine
The Leopard 2 tank is a leading battle tank used by the German Army and militaries of more than a dozen other European nations. Despite pressure from other European nations, Germany has yet to decide whether to allow its Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
What is a Leopard 2 tank?
The Leopard 2 is a powerful tank, powered by a diesel engine and featuring night-vision equipment and a laser range finder that can measure distance to an object. It has seen service in conflicts in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Syria. There are multiple iterations of the Leopard 2 with different features and designs.
How could the tank help Ukraine?
Ukraine's government has been calling for tanks in addition to earlier packages of military aid from allies in the United States and Europe that included aircraft, air defense systems, and longer-range artillery. The Leopard 2 tanks would offer a significant step forward in capability for Ukraine, and would help offset Russia's superiority in artillery firepower. They could be particularly valuable as the war approaches its second year and Ukraine looks to reclaim lost territory and expects a Russian spring offensive.
What are the advantages of Leopards over other tanks?
The chief advantage of the Leopard 2 is the quantity that could be sent to Ukraine and the relative ease of repair and logistics. Logistics and maintenance would be easier as spare parts and know-how are available in Europe, making training of Ukrainians easier. In addition, because several European countries use the vehicles, multiple nations could contribute either the tanks themselves, or spare parts, training capacity, or logistics.
Why does Germany have to approve the transfer of Leopards owned by other countries?
According to German officials, re-exporting German-made tanks without Berlin’s permission would be illegal. The contracts that a country signs to obtain weapons from German manufacturers or German military stocks require them to request a re-export license from the federal government should they wish to send such weapons to another country.
What are the potential pitfalls?
It is not clear that the supply of Western tanks, including the Leopard 2, would arrive at the battlefront quickly enough to confront the potential Russian offensive. Additionally, it is uncertain if Germany will approve the transfer of the Leopards.