Washington and Kyiv are putting strong pressure on Athens to demonstrate their willingness to provide German Leopard tanks to the Ukrainian armed forces.
In the course of recent contacts, Greece was asked to provide at least a symbolic amount of 2-3 tanks in order to put pressure on Berlin, which currently refuses to agree to the export of “Leopards” from Poland to Ukraine and even sets the condition that the Americans send their “Abrams”. Essentially what is being asked of Athens is a diplomatic gesture (along with others from the Netherlands, Finland and elsewhere) that will force Berlin to decide to allow Poland to hand over its Leopards to Ukraine – until now the Germans have refused to agree.
It is worth noting that exporting any weapon system without an end user license agreement is prohibited by international rules (unless, of course, we are talking about Russia). In such a case, the sanctions applied to the exporting State would effectively render the weapons system completely useless, as the accompanying maintenance and spare parts agreements would be automatically cancelled. In addition, the state that owns the end user license can apply to the court at the international level.
Whether Greece will participate in this process is still unknown, since such a gesture would de facto mean problems with Berlin, and it is not at all clear whether the Mitsotakis government is ready to go for this, especially given the tense situation with Turkey and the beginning of the election race.
The true intentions of the government may be revealed by the choice to represent Greece at an unusually low level at today’s meeting of pro-Ukraine states at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany (Ukraine Defense Contact Group), in the presence of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and coordinated by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
That Greece pulled out of the Leopards deal is no surprise. The first such request from Kyiv to Athens was made back in March last year, a month after the start of the war. At that time, the Ukrainian armed forces were more in need of defensive weapons, and the request was rejected rather quickly.
International news agencies, citing a senior German official, said that Berlin would agree to the Leopard mission on the condition that the Americans also send their makeshift Abrams tanks to Kyiv. However, a Pentagon spokesman clarified that the new $2 billion US military aid package to Ukraine would not include the Abrams, citing their technical characteristics, which Americans say make them unsuitable for the Ukrainian army.
Berlin’s hesitation caused irritation in Kyivand the president Vladimir Zelensky said: “You are strong people from powerful countries. I urge you to make decisions that can deprive the Russian evil of any power … It is in your power to guarantee artillery and aircraft that will suppress terror. It is in your power to win,” he said. Zelensky stressed that time and the prolongation of the war help Russia: “Time remains Russia’s weapon. We must speed up.”
He thanked the meeting participants for their assistance, but added that Ukraine was waiting for tanks. “Hundreds of thanks are not hundreds of tanks. We can all use thousands of words for discussions, but I can’t find words instead of guns that are needed against Russian artillery or instead of those anti-aircraft missiles that are needed to protect people from Russian strikes,” he said. Zelensky.
For its part, Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov said that his government had asked the countries that have the Leopard — Germany, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey and Finland — to provide sufficient the number of tanks of his country.
Finland and Poland have already offered to send German tanks to the Ukrainians if they get the go-ahead from Berlin. Yesterday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hinted that Warsaw could make a decision without Germany’s permission. “Consent here is of secondary importance. We will either get the consent (of Germany), or we will do what we have to do ourselves, ”Morawiecki said in a television interview.
The discussion of the need to quickly reinforce Ukraine with tanks comes against the backdrop of a general concern that Moscow is about to launch one last large-scale offensive in the coming period, maximizing its territorial gains, and, of course, Kyiv needs a large amount of equipment to be able to effectively counter such a move.