The Ramstein air base in Germany will host representatives from 50 countries on Friday to discuss what further support Ukraine will receive to help it fight back against Russia.
It comes at a crucial stage in the conflict, with spring offensives expected from both sides and signs that the Kremlin is planning for a long and drawn-out war.
Weren’t there some big weapons announcements made yesterday?
There were indeed. Here are some highlights:
· The U.S. released $2.5 billion worth of supplies for Ukrainian forces, including Bradley fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, air defense systems, and tens of thousands of rockets and artillery rounds.
· Britain announced it would send 600 ground-to-air Brimstone missiles.
· Denmark said it would donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzers.
· Sweden promised its Archer artillery system, a modern mobile howitzer that Ukraine has been requesting for months.
There’s something missing…
Tanks. The Ramstein meeting is all about tanks.
While there’s been recent positive news about tanks – Britain pledging 14 heavy Challenger 2 tanks, and the U.S. committing Bradley fighting vehicles, as the mentioned above – what everyone in Ukraine is hoping for today is that Germany authorizes the delivery of its Leopard tanks.
What’s so special about the Leopard?
According to military analysts, the Leopard 2 is probably the best choice of NATO main battle tanks that could be used to equip the Ukrainian army.
Over the years, Germany has sold thousands of them across the world and many of them are currently sitting unused in countries like Poland that want to send them to Ukraine, but can’t because they need German permission to do so.
And so far, Germany has refused to grant this permission.
Why is Germany so hesitant?
Germany has been hesitant about supplying anything throughout the current war, afraid of upsetting Vladimir Putin and sparking a wider conflict outside of Ukraine’s borders.
Despite the ever-mounting evidence that Russia can barely fight effectively against just Ukraine, never mind NATO, Chancellor Olaf Scholz continues to be cautious.
Explaining Germany’s reluctance, Sudha David-Wilp, the Berlin office director of U.S. think tank the German Marshall Fund, told AFP the country “would rather be in the middle of the pack than at the front line.”
“I think they definitely want to support Ukraine but... Chancellor Scholz and Germany as a country are cautious by nature,” she said.
What’s their current stance?
At the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Scholz told U.S. Congress members that Germany would supply heavy tanks to Ukraine if the United States sent tanks too, a senior US lawmaker told AFP Thursday.
But amid mounting pressure within Europe to authorize exports of Leopard tanks – led in part by the U.K.’s decision to send its Challenger 2s – there are signs Germany could make a big announcement today.
Berlin left the door open to letting allies supply Ukraine with the requested tanks, saying on Thursday it would “become clear in the next few hours or tomorrow morning.”
And Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas told AFP that “some countries will send” Leopard tanks to Ukraine, promising “more news tomorrow” at the talks.
Visiting Kyiv on Thursday, European Council President Charles Michel said he believed that tanks “must be delivered.”
What is Ukraine saying?
Looking ahead to the German talks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that Kyiv expected “strong decisions” and “a powerful military support package from the United States.”
Earlier, Zelensky had heavily criticized Germany: “There are times when we shouldn’t hesitate… When someone says ‘I will give tanks if someone else will also share tanks’... I don’t think this is the right strategy to go with.”
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak took to Twitter on Thursday with even more urgency: “Ukraine needs tanks; tanks – the key to end war properly. Time to stop trembling at [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin and take the final step.”
When can we expect some news?
It’s almost certain a decision one way or the other will be made today, though the exact time isn’t clear.
Kyiv Post will bring you the latest updates as they happen.
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