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Warsaw Accuses Berlin of Breaking its Word on Tank ‘Ring Exchange’ by Robert Semonsen

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Warsaw Accuses Berlin of Breaking its Word on Tank ‘Ring Exchange’

The Polish government, after having transferred nearly all of its 240 Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine following Russia’s military incursion, has accused Berlin of reneging on its promise to replace the gifted armaments with more modern German tanks—an agreement known as the the ‘Ringtausch,’ or ring exchange.

According to a report from the German news portal T-Online, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek, while speaking to Der Spiegel last week, said: “There were promises from Germany to strengthen our defense capabilities, but unfortunately none of this has been realized.”

Shortly after the Polish deputy foreign minister’s statements began circulating, German Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) confirmed in a confidential meeting with security politicians that talks with Poland concerning the tank ring exchange had indeed failed. 

Apparently, the ring exchange agreement—which was never binding between the two parties—failed to materialize after Germany stated that could not fulfill Mateusz Morawiecki’s government’s demands for Leopard 2A7s, the latest version of the world’s preeminent battle tank. Since the Bundeswehr does not yet have this generation of Leopards at its disposal, quick deliveries to Poland were deemed impossible. 

Subsequently, in an attempt to reach a compromise, the German government offered to deliver older models of the tank. The proposal, however, was shot down by the Poles and the talks ended without success.

Following the onset of the war in February, Germany’s federal government introduced the ring exchange concept as a way to deliver heavy weaponry into Ukraine as quickly as possible. To place operational tanks, tracked vehicles, APCs, and other military equipment on the battlefield as quickly as possible, former Eastern Bloc states send their Soviet-era stocks to Ukraine, while Germany then replenishes the stocks of those countries with newer armaments.

So far, however, the exchange program has been less than a success—at least in the eyes of Ukrainian officials. Andrej Melnyk, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany, has said that Germany’s announced ring exchange with T72 tanks for Ukraine from Slovenia had been a failure since Berlin failed to offer the Slovenian government sufficient replacements. 

While speaking with the newspapers of the RND Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, Melnyk opined that Germany’s reluctance to “finally implement the historic decision to use heavy weapons” is one of the main reasons why Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not yet traveled to Kyiv.

“We have the impression that the chancellor does not want to deliver,” Melnyk said. “You can get the impression that you’re waiting for a ceasefire. Then the pressure from Germany will be gone and there will no longer be any need for courageous decisions.”

Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.

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