Berlin (AFP) – Germany has faced mounting pressure to supply battle tanks to Kyiv, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed frustration about not getting enough weapons as Western allies agreed Thursday on how best to support Ukraine after nearly 11 months of war. Russian invasion.
Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, greeted US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Berlin. He declared that the German weapon systems delivered so far had proven their worth and that “in the future, together with our partners, we will continue to support Ukraine in its struggle for freedom, regional independence and sovereignty”.
However, he did not mention the Leopard 2 tanks that Ukraine has long sought. Since the UK announced last week that it would send Challenger 2 tanksBerlin faced increasing pressure to supply battle tanks or at least to pave the way for others – such as Poland – Deliver German-made Cheetahs from their own stock.
Austin will host a regular coordination meeting of Ukraine’s western allies at the US Air Force Base Ramstein in Germany on Friday. He said that “we will renew our unified commitment to support Ukraine’s long-term self-defense,” but did not mention specific new equipment.
Speaking via video link to a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Zelensky offered veiled criticism of key backers like Germany and the United States who have nevertheless hesitated to send tanks.
He regretted the “lack of specific weapons.” Speaking through an interpreter, he said, “There are times when we should not hesitate or we should not compare when someone says, ‘I would give the tanks if someone else would share theirs too’.”
The Ukrainian foreign and defense ministers said that the promised British tanks, while welcome, were “not sufficient to achieve operational goals”.
“We guarantee that we will use these weapons responsibly and exclusively for the purposes of protecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders,” Dmytro Kuleba and Oleksey Reznikov said in a statement, appealing to Germany and several other countries using the Leopard 2. To join the International Tank Alliance.
For months, Ukraine has sought heavy vehicles such as the American Leopard and Abrams tanks, but Western leaders tread carefully.
Germany has been particularly in the spotlight lately. Critics, some from within Germany’s ruling coalition, have long complained about Chancellor Uyaf Schulz’s reluctance to take the next step when it comes to handing over weapons.
Scholz was wary of pressure, insisting that Germany would not go it alone, and pointing to the need to ensure that NATO did not become a party to the war with Russia, although Berlin has ultimately moved in every time so far. Depicts his cautious weight From every step a virtue.
In Davos on Wednesday, Scholz avoided directly answering a question about the Panthers, saying that Germany will continue to be one of the largest arms suppliers to Ukraine and that “we do nothing alone, but together with others – especially the United States.”
German officials have expressed reluctance to allow allies to give the Panthers unless the United States also sends Ukraine Abrams, according to a US official who was not authorized to comment and spoke on condition of anonymity. New package coming from US military aid It is expected to include approximately 100 Stryker combat vehicles and at least 50 Bradley armored vehicles — but not the Abrams, which US officials say needs complex maintenance and may not be the best fit.
“I think it’s not about avoiding going alone any more, but about avoiding being alone,” Wolfgang Eichinger, the former German ambassador to the United States, said on Deutschlandfunk radio about calls for German tanks to be handed over.
Some eastern NATO allies have provided Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukrainian forces, but officials acknowledge that supplies of Soviet-era equipment with which Ukrainian forces are already familiar are limited.
Senior officials from Britain, Poland, the Baltic states and other European countries met in Estonia on Thursday before the Rammstein meeting.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said that his country will send at least three batteries of AS-90 artillery, armored vehicles, thousands of rounds of ammunition and 600 Brimstone missiles, in addition to a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks.
Wallace told the AP that the decision to send battle tanks was a “natural progression” of British military support to Ukraine and had been discussed with the United States.
“If you are going to donate armored personnel carriers, you need to supplement that with tanks,” he said. “We had some tanks that we thought could do that.”
Wallace admitted that the Challenger shipment was “not the only magic ingredient” for Ukraine, which has said it needs 300 tanks, among other weapons, to drive out Russian forces. But he said he hoped it would complement the Bradley armored vehicles already provided by the United States and help “lead the way” for others to send tanks.
Estonia announced its largest military aid package to date, including howitzers, ammunition, artillery support equipment, and grenade launchers.
Elsewhere, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said his country has decided to send up to 50 Swedish-made combat vehicles as well as a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile system and Archer artillery system to Ukraine.
Denmark plans to donate 19 French-made Caesar self-propelled guns.
Jamie Kitten reports from Davos, Switzerland. Associated Press correspondents Aamir Madani in Washington, Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia, and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine