Western defense leaders meet amid dissent over tanks for Ukraine


Defense leaders gathered at Germany’s Ramstein air base heard an impassioned. Plea for more aid from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday. As they struggled to resolve a dispute over whether to provide battle tanks. And other military aid to his embattled country.

At least early in the meeting, the tank debate that has been straining the alliance. Did not appear to have been resolved. But Germany’s new defense minister suggested the issue was moving forward. Germany has so far resisted mounting pressure to supply Kiev with Leopard 2 tanks. Or at least clear the way for other countries such as Poland to supply. German-made Leopards from their own stocks.

But, speaking to reporters outside the conference hall at noon.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said no decision. Had yet been made on sending the Leopard tanks, adding, “We will make our decision as soon as possible.”

He said he had ordered the ministry to look into Germany’s tank stocks. So he could be prepared for a possible green light and be able to “act immediately”. Pistorius added that Germany will “balance all the pros and cons before we make a decision like that. … I’m very sure that there will be a decision in the short term but … I don’t know what the decision will be.”

Zelensky, speaking live via video link, told the rally that “terror does not allow for dialogue.” “The war that Russia has started does not allow delay,” he said.

And as the conference began, US Defense Secretary. Lloyd Austin warned, “”This is a critical moment. Russia is trying to rebuild, recruit and re-equip.”

Now, Austin said, is a defining moment for Ukraine. And “a defining decade for the world,” adding that the group’s presence in Germany signals. Their unity and commitment to continue supporting Ukraine.

“We have to keep our momentum and our determination.

We have to dig deeper,” Austin told a gathering of about 50 defense leaders who attended in person and by video.

A Kremlin spokesman said the deployment of Western tanks would. Have “negative” consequences.

“All these tanks will must both maintenance and repair. And thus (sending them) will increase Ukraine’s problems. But the Russian side will not change anything . About achieving its goals,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a media briefing. . Friday briefing.

Austin and US Army General Mark Milley. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were expected to discuss. The latest massive package of US aid, which totals $2.5 billion. And includes Stryker armored vehicles for the first time.

The US has refused to supply the M1 Abrams tank. At least so far, citing the extensive. And complex maintenance and logistical challenges of the high-tech vehicle. The U.S. believes sending the Leopard would be more effective because many allies have them. And Ukrainian troops would only need to train on those. Versus requiring more training on the tougher Abrams.

The UK announced last week that it would send Challenger 2 tanks.

Describing it as a natural progression of military aid to Ukraine.

At a Pentagon briefing Thursday, spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said. The Leopard and Challenger are not comparable to the Abrams tank because. The Abrams is more difficult to maintain and would not be suitable.

“It’s more of a sustainability issue. I mean, it’s a tank that needs jet fuel, whereas the Leopard and the Challenger, it’s a different engine.” The Leopard and the Challenger are “a little easier to maintain,” Singh said. “They can maneuver across large areas of terrain before refueling.” . An Abrams maintenance and the high costs that would entail. – It doesn’t make sense for the Ukrainians to pay for it at this point.”

The latest package of US aid includes eight Avenger air defense systems, 350 Humvees. 53 Mine Resistant Ambush Now, Austin said, is a defining moment for Ukraine. And “a defining decade for the world,” adding that the group’s presence in Germany signals. Their unity and commitment to continue supporting Ukraine. Protected (MRAP) vehicles, more. Than 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and rockets. And missiles for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. The Pentagon made the announcement on Thursday.

Its Challenger 2 tank moved into the Tapa military base in Estonia on January 19, 2023. Pavel Golovkin / AP
Other commitments announced before the Ramstein. Meeting included S-60 anti-aircraft guns with 70,000 rounds of ammunition from Poland. More Stinger air-defense systems. And two M-17 helicopters from Latvia and two Russian-made Mi-8 helicopters and dozens.

L-70 anti-aircraft gun with ammunition from Lithuania.

11 months after the Russian invasion, Zelensky expressed frustration. About not receiving enough weapons from Western allies.

Speaking via video link on the sidelines. Of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. Switzerland, on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader offered a veiled criticism of big supporters. Such as Germany and the United States who have hesitated to send tanks.

Lamenting the “lack of specific weapons,” Zelensky said through an interpreter. “There are times when we shouldn’t hesitate or we shouldn’t compare when someone says. ‘I will give tanks if someone else shares his tanks.’ “

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