Monday March 27, 2023

Most Germans against sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Published : 19 Jan 2023, 23:56

  DF News Desk
A Leopard 2 main battle tank fires during Bundeswehr land operations exercise. Photo: Peter Steffen/dpa.

As Germany comes under increasing pressure to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, most at home do not favour exporting the coveted vehicles and think the country has done enough, a survey published on Thursday showed, reported dpa.

Of the 2,025 respondents, 43% opposed the delivery and only 39% were in favour. Another 16% did not express a position, the survey, conducted for dpa by the polling institute YouGov, showed.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, Germany has delivered weapons and military equipment worth more than €2.2 billion ($2.4 billion) to Ukraine, including heavy artillery and air defence systems.

One in three respondents (33%) think this is already too much. Another 24% say the volume of deliveries is just right, while 25% demand more German military support for Ukraine.

Despite the reticence of the YouGov poll respondents towards having their country export the tanks, most are not opposed to other countries doing so. A total of 47% would be in favour, with 38% against and 16% undecided.

Berlin must approve any transfer of the tanks, which 20 countries have in their arsenals.

Poland and Finland have already said they would send Leopards to Ukraine. Unlike the Soviet-era tanks that comprise most of Ukraine's heavy armour, the tanks have advanced capabilities such as thermal optics.

Last week German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, commenting about Poland's plans to export the tanks, said he would not prevent Warsaw from sending them.

"Germany should not stand in the way when other countries make decisions to support Ukraine, regardless of what decision Germany makes," Habeck said at the closed meeting of the executive committee of the Green parliamentary group in Berlin.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has yet to make a final decision on the issue.

On Thursday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky among others criticized German hesitation to deliver the tanks.

"There are times when we shouldn't hesitate and say: 'I will give tanks if someone else shares their tanks.' I don't think this is the right strategy to go with," Zelensky told a panel on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The German government will face a major test on Friday when defence ministers of some 50 of Ukraine's allies are scheduled to meet at the US air base in Ramstein in south-western Germany to discuss further military aid to Kiev in its fight against Russian forces.

The delivery of Western-designed tanks will be at the centre of the talks. Germany plays a key role because it is the producer of the Leopard 2.