In an exclusive interview, published on Sunday, January 22nd, in Bild am Sonntag, Germany’s new defense minister Boris Pistorius disclosed plans for a future visit to Ukraine “within the next four weeks.”
The statement follows last Friday’s summit at the military base of Ramstein, where all of NATO’s defense ministers had gathered. While agreement among allies had been reached on more arms deliveries to Ukraine, Germany made itself unpopular by holding off on sending its Leopard II tanks—and forbidding any NATO allies that have them from doing so.
Poland and the Baltic states in particular did not take well to the German decision. On Monday, Berlin hinted that Poland, after repeated requests, could be allowed to send its own Leopard II tanks after all.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday that his government would request authorisation from Berlin but that, even without it, Poland would send its tanks to Ukraine:
Even if, ultimately, we did not get this consent, within the framework of a small coalition. … we will still hand over our tanks, together with others, to Ukraine.
The pressure on Berlin—considerable already before the summit—has only increased. NATO allies, keen on presenting a united front, are strongly urging Germany to take the next step in its self-proclaimed support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
While the conflict has been predominantly marked by attrition warfare, Kyiv has recently been losing territory to Russia. As part of Russia’s efforts to encircle and cut off the beleaguered town of Bakhmut, the Russian Wagner Group recently took the towns of Soledar and claimed it had also taken the town of Klishchiivka.
In a bid to resist the onslaught—as well as ones yet to come—Ukraine has been pleading for modern tanks.
When asked about the delivery of these tanks, Defense Minister Pistorius said Berlin was “in very close dialogue” with its international partners, “first and foremost with the U.S., on this issue.”
Days before, German sources had told Reuters that Berlin would consider German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine, but only if the U.S. would do likewise. Kyiv particularly wants the much-vaunted M1 Abrams tank as it seeks to turn the tide.
So far, U.S. officials have squelched such hopes. President Joe Biden’s administration is not eager to send Abrams tanks as they “are costly and difficult to maintain.”
After former Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht’s resignation, Pistorius last week became Germany’s defense minister, much to the surprise of political analysts.
First on his extensive to-do list is the implementation of Germany’s ‘Zeitenwende’ (literally: ‘turning of time’) signifying a new era for the nation as it seeks to bolster its military power. Towards that end, a €100 billion spending package has already been approved.
Pistorius told Bild am Sonntag his aim for Germany’s military (the ‘Bundeswehr’) is to take the leading role in the European Union. “Germany is the largest economy in Europe, so it should also be our goal to have the strongest and best-equipped army in the EU,” he said.