US Sectary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III arrived in Berlin on Wednesday night, January 18, for meetings with German officials as the US seeks to exert pressure on Berlin to approve the transfer of tanks to Ukraine.
In a press statement on Wednesday, the US Department of Defense said one of the secretary’s priorities for the trip would be to work with German officials to “unlock [the] decision” to provide Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.
Austin said upon arriving on Wednesday that he would meet newly appointed German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius and Federal Minister Wolfgang Schmidt, “to discuss our shared defense priorities and enhanced cooperation among democracies.”
Ukrainian officials including President Volodymyr Zelensky have repeatedly asked for Western tanks to replace its Soviet-era stock, and Poland has said it wants to transfer some of its Leopard 2 vehicles to Kyiv, but the move would need Berlin’s permission.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday that Poland would consider transferring the tanks without Germany’s assent.
Poland has offered 14 tanks to Ukraine, he said.
Germany has refused to transfer Leopard 2 tanks or allow Poland to provide them unless the United States also agrees to send tanks, according to a Reuters report. Ukraine has specifically asked for American Abrams main battle tanks, which would be necessary for an offensive push to recapture Russian-occupied territory.
Austin is expected to remain in Germany for a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base later this week. Credit: Lloyd J. Austin III via Storyful