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UK praised for sending Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine

UK praised for sending Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine… as Germany drags its heels over donating Leopard 2s, with final decision possibly still weeks away

  • Berlin is reluctant to allow its main battle tank, the Leopard 2, to join the fight 
  • The United Kingdom have donated 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine
  •  ‘David v Goliath’: Russian tank is pelted with bombs by small Ukrainian drone

Britain was praised last night for its decisive commitment to send battle tanks to Ukraine.

As Germany continued to drag its feet over following suit with its own military hardware, the US saluted the UK for its leadership.

Berlin’s reluctance to allow its main battle tank, the Leopard 2, to join the fight against Russia has exposed cracks in Nato.

But US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said this was a ‘decisive moment for Ukraine’s ability to defend itself’ and praised Britain for its leadership in pledging to send 14 Challenger 2s.

Berlin’s reluctance to allow its main battle tank, the Leopard 2, to join the fight against Russia has exposed cracks in Nato

He added: ‘The UK has announced a significant donation of Challenger 2 tanks. We commend our British allies for this decision.’

Despite pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for Leopard 2s, Berlin has refused to send them. It has also said other Nato states that use the tanks cannot give them to Ukraine without its approval.

But after crisis talks between Nato defence ministers yesterday, Germany’s position appeared to soften when it said it would prepare its Leopard 2s for rapid deployment should a political agreement be reached and signalled that its allies could use theirs to train Ukrainian tank crews.

However, a final decision could still be weeks away, according to German defence minister Boris Pistorius.

He was speaking after talks with British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at the Ramstein US military base yesterday amid concern that indecision over tanks threatens to compromise Ukraine’s military planning ahead of a spring offensive.

Despite pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for Leopard 2s, Berlin has refused to send them

In tense talks, with many Nato defence ministers imploring Germany to reach a decision on the Leopard 2 issue, German officials repeatedly pleaded for time, according to sources close to the negotiations.

Germany announced a £1billion military aid package for Ukraine yesterday. Overall, it is the third largest provider of equipment to Ukraine, behind the UK and the US.

It is sending Marder fighting vehicles and guided missiles but sending tanks has split public opinion, with a narrow majority of Germans opposed to giving Leopard 2s.

In a boost for Ukraine, Poland said last night it was ‘convinced’ Nato would agree to send German tanks. Speaking at the Ramstein defence conference, Polish defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak said: ‘This hope comes from the fact ministers from 15 countries met on the sidelines of today’s conference and we discussed the matter.’

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said this was a ‘decisive moment for Ukraine’s ability to defend itself’ and praised Britain for its leadership in pledging to send 14 Challenger 2s

Mr Austin stressed that Nato remains united in its support for Ukraine.

He also offered Germany his backing, saying: ‘Germany is a reliable ally and we will continue to have a great relationship with Germany and Germany will continue to provide leadership.’

Asked if he was disappointed about the delays over the Leopard 2s, Mr Austin added: ‘This isn’t about a single platform. Our goal is to provide Ukraine with the capability it needs in the near term.’

Ukraine has said it needs 300 tanks to break through the Russian front line.

Marina Miron, of the defence studies department at King’s College London, said tanks are useful but lots of factors have to be taken into account.

These include how many tanks will be sent, what condition they are in, how Ukrainian crews will be trained, when the tanks will be delivered and how they will be kept supplied.

Sending tanks is ‘more of a political gesture’ than something that will change the complexion of the war, Ms Miron said.

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