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Several countries have pledged to provide tanks to Ukraine amid disagreements between the United States and Germany

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Several countries are set to announce sending heavy tanks to support Ukraine’s war with Russia on Friday, a senior official said on Thursday, after Western allies pledged billions of dollars in new weapons ahead of a Kyiv arms crisis meeting to be held in Germany. .

The pledges came amid big questions about whether German-made Leopard tanks would be delivered to Ukraine, with Berlin yet to announce whether it would lift its veto.

Kyiv has been particularly pressing on the Leopard tanks, which are owned by a group of NATO countries, but their transfer to Ukraine requires the approval of Germany, fearing that winter would give Russian forces time to regroup and launch a major offensive.

A German government source said Berlin would lift its objections if Washington sent its own Abrams tanks. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, was reluctant to send arms to Ukraine, which was seen as a provocation to Moscow. Many of Berlin’s western allies say the concern is misplaced, as Russia is already committed to war.

The two countries attempted to resolve the crisis as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Germany’s new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius met in Berlin. But there was no word on whether they had made progress before dozens of allies gathered on Friday at Ramstein, Washington’s main European air base.

However, later on Thursday, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anousauskas said several countries would announce the dispatch of Leopard tanks to Ukraine on Friday at the meeting at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base. “Some countries will definitely send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, that’s for sure,” Anosauskas told Reuters of Rammstein’s pledges after a preparatory meeting of 11 countries in Estonia. Anousouskas added that the total number of armored vehicles pledged at Rammstein will reach hundreds.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky engaged in a veiled criticism of Germany for its stance on tanks. “I am strong in Europe, I will help if someone else from outside Europe will help me too.” “It seems to me that this is not an entirely correct strategy,” he said.

The Rammstein meeting has been described as an opportunity for the West to give Ukraine what it needs to defeat Russia in 2023, and countries like Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden have already announced armored vehicles and air defences.

But Kyiv says it needs heavy tanks to repel Russian attacks and take back occupied lands. “We don’t have time, the world doesn’t have this time. The issue of tanks for Ukraine must be closed as soon as possible. We are paying for the delay with our people’s lives. It shouldn’t be like that,” Andrei Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, wrote on Telegram on Thursday.

Berlin has so far prevented the Allies from sending its Leopard 2 tanks, the backbone of armies across Europe. Washington and many Western allies say the Panthers — which Germany built in the thousands during the Cold War — are the only viable option available in large enough numbers.

U.S. officials say they do not yet plan to send the Abrams, which are powered by powerful turboprop engines seen as too much fuel for the strained logistics system in Kyiv, to supply at the front.

Not normal times

Both Pistorius and Austin spoke about the importance of supporting Ukraine before their meeting, but neither addressed the tank issue directly.

In a ceremony after being sworn in, Pistorius said, “These are not normal times, we have a war raging in Europe. Russia is waging a brutal war of annihilation on a sovereign country, on Ukraine.”

Austin described Germany as one of Washington’s closest allies and thanked it for its support of Ukraine so far.

Poland and Finland have already said they will send the Panthers if Germany lifts its veto. In a sign of growing frustration, Poland indicated that it might do so even if Germany tried to stop it.

Russia responded to the prospect of sending more weapons to Kyiv with threats of escalation. Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Vladimir Putin who held the post of president from 2008 to 2012 when Putin stopped serving as prime minister, has been one of the clearest of Moscow’s threats to use nuclear weapons if it loses in Ukraine. He said, “The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may lead to a nuclear war. Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends.”

There were signs of friction within the ruling coalition in Germany. Schulz’s deputy, Robert Habeck, of his partners in the Green coalition, said just last week that Germany would not stand in the way of other countries sending Panthers to Ukraine.

Attaching the Panthers to the US Abrams tanks could shift responsibility to Washington. Colin Kahl, a senior policy adviser at the Pentagon, said on Wednesday that Abrams tanks are unlikely to be included in Washington’s next massive $2 billion military aid package, which will be issued by the Stryker and Bradley armored vehicles. “The Abrams tank is a very complex piece of equipment,” Kahl said. “It’s expensive. It’s hard to train with. It has a turbojet.”

Ukraine and Russia relied primarily on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, which were destroyed by the hundreds during 11 months of fighting. Kyiv says that the best-armed and protected Western tanks will give its forces mobile firepower to expel Russian forces in decisive battles.

After significant Ukrainian gains in the second half of 2022, the front lines have been largely frozen over the past two months, with neither side making significant gains despite heavy losses in intense trench warfare.

New military aid

Meanwhile, a group of 11 NATO countries, including Britain and Poland, on Thursday pledged a raft of new military aid to support Ukraine. “The West must remain united and continue to support Ukraine with military aid. What Ukraine needs most are heavy weapons. There are still the hardest battles ahead,” Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said at a press conference in his country, held jointly with the British. counterparts and other officials.

Officials gathered at a military base, pledging Stinger missiles and air defense systems, anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, training, equipment and other services.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain, which has already announced plans to send tanks to Ukraine, would also send 600 Brimstone missiles.

Poland was sending S-60 anti-aircraft guns along with 70,000 rounds of ammunition and said it was willing to donate a company of Leopard 2 tanks “pending a broader coalition” of Leopard donors, according to a joint statement from the meeting.

Hours after the meeting, the Danish government announced that it would donate 19 French-made Tsar artillery systems to Ukraine, fulfilling Zelensky’s wish, but halting military build-ups in the Scandinavian country.

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