WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland will ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Monday.
Morawiecki didn’t specify when the request will be made. He said that Poland is building a coalition of nations ready to send Leopards.
Even if there is no permission from Germany, Warsaw will make its own decisions, he said, without elaborating.
“We will ask (Germany) for permission, but this is a secondary theme,” Morawiecki said. “Even if, eventually, we do not get this permission, we — within this small coalition — even if Germany is not in this coalition, we will hand over our tanks, together with the others, to Ukraine.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French television channel LCI on Sunday that Poland hasn’t formally asked for Berlin’s approval to share some of its German-made Leopards, but added “if we were asked, we would not stand in the way.”
Regarding Baerbock’s comments, Morawiecki said that “exerting pressure makes sense” and that her words are a “spark of hope” that Germany may even take part in the coalition.
Baerbock “sent a different message that offers a spark of hope that not only Germany will no longer block, but maybe finally will offer heavy, modern equipment in support of Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.
“We are constantly exerting pressure on the government in Berlin to make its Leopards available,” Morawiecki told a news conference in the western city of Poznan.
According to Morawiecki, Germany has “more than 350 active Leopards and about 200 in storage.”
The Ukrainian government says that tanks, and especially the German-made Leopards, are vital if it is to prevail over the Kremlin’s invading forces.
Baerbock made positive comments about the possibility of sending tanks to Ukraine. German officials “know how important these tanks are” and “this is why we are discussing this now with our partners,” Baerbock said in interview clips posted by LCI.
Ukraine’s supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine during a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.
International defense leaders discussed Ukraine’s urgent request for the Leopard 2 tanks, and the failure to work out an agreement overshadowed the new commitments.
Germany is one of the main donors of weapons to Ukraine, and it ordered a review of its Leopard 2 stocks in preparation for a possible green light. Nonetheless, the government in Berlin has shown caution at each step of increasing its military aid to Ukraine, a hesitancy seen as rooted in its history and political culture.
Germany’s tentativeness has drawn criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel especially threatened by Russia’s renewed aggression.
Moscow, in response to the pledges of sophisticated Western weapons for Kyiv’s military, has stepped up its warnings that escalation risks catastrophe.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Monday reaffirmed Moscow’s claim that the Western supplies could lead to “unpredictable” consequences.
“We have said on numerous occasions that escalation is the most dangerous path, and the consequences may be unpredictable,” Ryabkov said. “Our signals are not listened to, and Russia’s adversaries keep raising the stakes.”
With both sides’ battlefield positions mostly deadlocked during the winter months, the Kremlin’s forces have kept up their bombardments of Ukrainian areas.
Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said Monday that Russian forces shelled several towns and villages in the northeastern region over the previous 24 hours, killing a 67-year-old woman and leaving another resident wounded.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
The Associated Press