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Berlin says green light for tanks for Ukraine needs agreement from allies

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2023-01-20T13:38:14Z

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged allies on Friday (January 20) to “dig deeper” to support Ukraine at the start of a meeting of dozens of defense ministers at an air base in Germany, as pressure piled up on Berlin to provide tanks to Kyiv. NATO and defense leaders from roughly 50 countries are meeting at Ramstein Air Base, the latest in a series of arms-pledging conferences since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago.

Germany said it would need agreement from allies to give the green light for the delivery of German-made tanks to Ukraine to fend off Moscow’s invasion, dashing Kyiv’s hopes for a quick decision.

Defence ministers from NATO and other countries were meeting in Germany amid warnings that Russia will soon reenergise its almost 11-month-old invasion to seize parts of Ukraine’s east and south it says it has annexed but does not fully control.

The United States and Finland announced new military aid before the gathering at Ramstein Air Base, where the main focus was on whether Germany will allow the re-export to Ukraine of its Leopard 2 tanks used by armies across Europe.

German Defence Minister Pistorius said he could not say when there would be a decision on the tanks but that Germany was prepared to move fast if there was agreement between allies.

“All pros and cons must be weighed very carefully,” Pistorius said, adding that the issue had been discussed on Friday but no decision had been made.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has appeared reluctant to authorise the re-export of the tanks from countries that use them for fear of provoking Russia.

Some allies, along with Ukraine, say Germany’s concern is misplaced with Russia already fully committed to war.

The Kremlin said that supplying tanks to Ukraine would not help, saying the West would regret its “delusion” that Kyiv could win on the battlefield.

Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskiy, speaking at the start of the meeting, thanked allies for their support, but said more was needed and more quickly.

“We have to speed up. Time must become our weapon. The Kremlin must lose,” said Zelenskiy, who earlier implied Germany was holding other countries back from sending their tanks.

Russia was regrouping, recruiting, and trying to re-equip, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the meeting.

“This is not a moment to slow down. It’s a time to dig deeper. The Ukrainian people are watching us,” he said, without making specific reference to tanks.

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