Poland wants to organize tank exports to Ukraine as Berlin wavers

Warsaw, Jan 23, (dpa/GNA) – Poland said it would send its German-built tanks to Ukraine, even if Germany did not, and indicated it would take a diplomatic lead in Europe, if Berlin fails to do so.

“We will not stand by idly and watch Ukraine bleed to death,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, meanwhile said Berlin would not oppose Poland sending the Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.

“We have not been asked so far and … if we were asked, we would not stand in the way,” she told French broadcaster LCI on Sunday evening.

Baerbock was responding to a question about what would happen, if Poland supplied the powerful Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

In order for third countries to export the German-made tanks, the government in Berlin must give its consent.

The comments on Sunday came, as French President Emmanuel Macron, said he hasn’t ruled out sending France’s Leclerc main battle tank. The British have already announced they are sending their Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.

“As far as the Leclerc is concerned, nothing is ruled out,” Macron said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Paris.

The Germans, at a major meeting at the US Air Force base in Ramstein in western Germany on Friday, said they haven’t made up their minds about shipping their Leopard 2 tanks, which Kiev says are vital to retaking territory conquered by Russia.

Germany has also so far refused to give its approval to other countries like Poland to export their own Leopards. Some in Germany have expressed the fear that sending the powerful weapons, could provoke Russia and only serve to escalate the war.

In Moscow, the head of the Duma warned that “if Washington and NATO countries supply arms that will be used to attack peaceful cities and try to seize our territories, as they threaten to do, it will lead to a retaliation with more powerful weapons.”

The Duma chief, Vyacheslav Volodin, did not specifically say the Kremlin would launch a nuclear attack if the West sends tanks, but elaborated that Russia considered attacks on the Ukrainian territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson, which were illegally annexed and occupied by Russian troops, as an attack on its territory.

Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelensky said these territories were stolen in an illegal land grab and has vowed to fight until they are once again under Ukrainian control.

Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki said Ukraine cannot wait and if Berlin remains indecisive Warsaw will act.

“If we don’t get German agreement on the Leopards, we will build a ‘smaller coalition’ of countries ready to donate some of their modern tanks to a fighting Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.

Poland has a long and tortuous history with neighbouring Russia, which formed a pact of convenience with Germany during WWII so it could grab parts of eastern Poland. It kept tight control of Poland and other Eastern European countries during the Cold War.