Scholz had insisted that any move to supply Ukraine with powerful Leopard 2 tanks should be closely coordinated with Germany’s allies, primarily the United States. By getting Washington to deploy some of its own tanks, Berlin hopes to spread the risk of a backlash from Russia.
Members of Scholz’s three-party coalition government welcomed the news ahead of the official announcement, expected in a speech to parliament early this afternoon.
“The Leopard is Freed!” said German lawmaker Katrin Göring-Eckardt, a senior lawmaker from the Green Party.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, a member of the Free Democratic Party who chairs the parliamentary defense committee, said the news was “a relief for a mistreated and courageous Ukraine”.
“The decision to approve (requests from other countries) and deliver Leopard 2 was a difficult one, but inevitable,” she said.
Strack-Zimmermann had been one of the loudest voices calling for a swift decision on arms supplies to Ukraine.
However, two smaller opposition parties criticized the move.
The far-right Alternative for Germany called the decision “irresponsible and dangerous.”
“Germany therefore runs the risk of becoming directly involved in the war,” said co-leader Tino Chrupalla. The party, known by its abbreviation AfD, has friendly ties with Russia.
The left party, which also has historic ties to Moscow, warned of a possible escalation of the conflict.
“The resupply of Leopard battle tanks, which breaks a new taboo, may bring us closer to a third world war than towards peace in Europe,” the party’s parliamentary leader Dietmar Bartsch told the German news agency dpa.
Recent opinion polls show that German voters are divided on the idea.
Pressure on Scholz increased this week after Poland formally asked Germany to allow it to ship Leopard 2 tanks from Polish stocks to Ukraine. Other European countries have also indicated their willingness to part with their own main battle tanks as part of a larger coalition.
The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported that Berlin could initially approve the delivery of one tank company, consisting of 14 vehicles.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made it clear late on Tuesday that he hoped to receive a larger number of tanks from Western allies.
“It’s not about five, or 10, or 15 tanks. The need is greater,” he says.
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