Earlier this month, NATO allies, including the US, agreed to send combat vehicles to Ukraine to assist it in its fight against Russia. Now, Western nations are taking things up a level, at Ukraine's request, promising to ship heavier weaponry, including tanks, to the war-torn country. On Wednesday, Germany announced it would initially send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks from its military supply after weeks of pressure to do so, reports Reuters. Until now, Chancellor Olaf Scholz had hedged, as it didn't want to do anything to trigger Russia to escalate its attacks or drag other countries into the war.
By Germany agreeing to send its Leopard 2 tanks, it also opens the doors for other nations, such as Poland, Spain, and Norway, to do the same, as Berlin's OK is needed for reexport, notes the Washington Post. NPR reports that the German-constructed battle vehicle is used by more than 20 nations around the world, coveted for its ability to easily move over all different kinds of terrain and take on the heavier weaponry being used by Russia. It's a decision Germany made in collaboration with other allies, including the United States, which on Tuesday is reported to have struck a preliminary deal to provide a number of its own M1 Abrams tanks, a similarly well-regarded heavy battle vehicle.
A senior US official tells the Post that the Biden administration will likely make a formal announcement on Wednesday, though it looks like the US tanks may not get to Ukraine until the fall. A second official says the US is expected to send at least 31 tanks, plus support vehicles. By banding together to offer Ukraine this next-level assistance, the allies hope to shift the direction of the war solidly in Ukraine's favor. It's a decision Germany didn't make lightly, and only after receiving some sort of assurance it wouldn't be going it solo. "We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally," Scholz said in a statement, per Reuters.
But the hesitation was also due to what the AP calls the "deeper historic significance" that underlies such a move. "German-made tanks will face off against Russian tanks in Ukraine once more," Ekkehard Brose, head of the German military's Federal Academy for Security Policy, tells the outlet—"not an easy thought" for a country still haunted by the role it played in World War II's atrocities. "The decision to release and deliver the Leopard 2 was a tough one, but inescapable," Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, head of the German parliament's defense committee, tweeted. Germany notes training for Ukrainian troops on its Leopard 2 tanks will start imminently, with logistics and ammo also provided. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)