The Greek Dimension of the Leopard Tanks Issue

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Recently, the main agenda substance in European politics has been whether Germany will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. In this context, the Berlin administration, which announced that it would help Ukraine as long as it deemed necessary, announced that it would deliver the Leopard 2 tanks to the Kiev administration on the condition that the United States of America (USA) also sent the M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. However, this issue has been fervently debated, even questioning the future of the European Union (EU).

At the end of the discussions, the Berlin administration announced that it would send Leopard tanks to Ukraine. The United States then announced that it would supply Ukraine with 31 M1 Abrams tanks.[1] Ukrainian media is not only Germany’s; Greece, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands will also send Leopard 2 tanks. However, the Athens administration insists on not sending the tanks in question to Ukraine.

When the issue of tanks and the Russian-Ukrainian War are considered in terms of the Greek dimension, it can be said that there are some problems and disagreements. In fact, it is known that Greece has provided Ukraine with weapons and equipment of different sizes since the beginning of the war. However, it should be underlined that these aids are generally made in line with the encouragement of the United States.

At this stage, it should be recalled that Greece has made a significant increase in its defense budget in 2022. In other words, even before the Russian-Ukrainian War had begun, the Athens administration put security at the top of its agenda. In addition, Athens has signed many military agreements with Washington and has organized or participated in many military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, including the United States, the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, Italy, France, Israel, and Egypt. Of course, these exercises were also of great importance in terms of learning how to use the equipment and weapons included in the inventory of the Greek Army by military personnel.

Apart from the United States, Germany is one country with which Greece has signed a defense cooperation agreement. In October 2022, a 4-billion-euro agreement was signed between the parties. In this context, it was agreed that Germany would deliver 40 Marder 1A3 armored combat vehicles to Athens in exchange for Greece supplying 40 Soviet-made BMP-1 armored combat vehicles to Ukraine. In addition, an agreement was reached on the purchase of 205 Lynx KF-41 type armored fighting vehicles from a factory to be established in the north of Greece and the modernization of 190 Leopard 1, 183 Leopard 2 and 4 MEKO type frigates.[2]

Only by looking at this agreement it can be argued that Greece has a significant military capacity. At this point, it should be noted that Leopard tanks have an important place in the inventory of the Greece Army. Hence, while the Leopard agenda is at the top of European politics; It was also stated by Germany that Greece could respond to Ukraine’s demands. Athens, on the other hand, needed these tanks for its own defense and security; therefore, it declared that it would not send it to Ukraine.

In addition to the fact that Greece does not want to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine citing its own security policies, it is also thought that the agreement on Marder armored combat vehicles is in the background of the issue. Greece was to send BMP-1 armored combat vehicles to Kiev in exchange for Marder armored combat vehicles. Although some of the Marder armored combat vehicles were given to Greece in November 2022, the Berlin administration changed its decision upon Ukraine’s call to European countries and announced that the Marder would be delivered first to Ukraine and then to Greece. The Greek Defense Ministry said Athens could wait for the Marders.

As can be understood, Greece thinks that it has made concessions to Ukraine because of aid and therefore believes that other European countries should put their hands under the stone regarding Ukraine. However, if the pressure on Athens increases, it can be argued that Greece may send some of these weapons to Ukraine.

To summarize briefly, after the Russian-Ukrainian War, European countries in particular, gave priority to ensuring their own national security. The outbreak of the energy crisis has made it difficult to produce a common foreign policy in terms of aid to Ukraine. This is also the case with the Leopard tanks. Because the priorities of the actors are their own national security. Accordingly, states show some reservations about the aid to be provided to Ukraine. However, considering that Germany has agreed to give Leopard tanks to Ukraine, it can be said that Greece may take a similar decision if the pressure on this issue increases.

[1] “Almanya’dan Sonra ABD de Ukrayna’ya Tank Göndereceğini Açıkladı”, BBC Türkçe,, (Date of Accession: 30.01.2023).

[2] “Greece to Make 4 Billion Euro Deal with Germany”, Greek City Times,, (Date of Accession: 30.01.2023).

Sevinç İrem BALCI
Sevinç İrem BALCI
Sevinç İrem Balcı, Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümü mezunudur. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Balcı, aynı zamanda Rusça ve Yunanca öğrenmektedir. Başlıca çalışma alanları Balkanlar ve Avrupa'dır.