The Problem of Leopard 2 Tanks in German-Ukrainian Relations

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On 12 December 2022, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that the supply of German Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine had been postponed once again. Kuleba stated that Kyiv could not come to an agreement with Berlin on the supply of these battle tanks, and that the latest agreements were related to defense weapons such as IRIS-T air defense systems and Gepard anti-aircraft systems.[1]

Oleksiy Makeev, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Berlin, indicated Kyiv’s hope that Germany will decide on the delivery of Leopard 2 combat tanks in early November 2022, and that Germany was already “leading the charge” with the delivery of the Iris-T missile defense system. Makeev stated that approaches such as “avoiding provoking Russia” should be abandoned and that Ukraine needs battle tanks and armored vehicles such as Leopard, Marder, Füchse and Dingo, and also Leopard 2 main battle tanks should be delivered directly to Ukraine.[2]

In early December 2022, United States of America (USA) National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan allegedly forced Berlin to supply battle tanks to Ukraine during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Foreign Policy Adviser Jens Plötner in October of the same year. In addition, American officials stated that Washington would not oppose the supply of tanks, but that Berlin should make its own decision regarding the possible shipment of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.[3]

At various times, Germany has given different reasons why it has not given its battle tanks to Ukraine. For example, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated on 1 May 2022 that Germany was cautious about supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine. Then, on July 7, 2022, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that although Berlin wanted to help Kyiv, it had to maintain its own defense capability.[4] On 22 October 2022, Scholz stated that 20-30% of the Germans opposed to the supply of weapons to Ukraine and their opinions were taken into account.[5] In addition, Scholz announced that with the help of a “cyclical exchange” he had supplied Ukraine with more than 100 tanks from the Czech Republic, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia that could be used “immediately”.[6]

The fact that Leopard 2 tanks, which are heavy battle tanks, were not given to Ukraine by Germany is similar to the issue of Patriot air defense systems. The difference is that the Patriot is American made and is a type of weapon that can be supplied by the USA by negotiation and with that country’s permission. The sale or supply of Leopard 2 tanks, which are produced by Germany, depends on Berlin’s will.

When Ukraine and Poland met with Germany about Patriot systems, the Germans opposed it and said they could only supply it to Poland. There is a similar situation with regard to leopard 2 tanks. This demonstrates that the Berlin administration has made a mark across Europe. As in the case of Poland, Germany primarily focuses on the defense of the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and makes a distinction between these states and Ukraine.

There are various reasons why Germany does not want to give some weapons such as Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and has a certain distance with Kyiv. The first of these is Germany’s approach to Russia, which is also criticized by the Ukrainians. Because Berlin still sees Moscow as an important component in European security and thinks that it can cooperate with Russia when a new order is established in the following years.

Secondly, Germany is developing a form of defense relationship within NATO and especially with its neighbors. In a sense, Germany is creating a security ring around itself.

Third of all, Ukraine is a battleground and Berlin believes that its influence over Kiev will be limited. Because Russia, the USA, Poland and the United Kingdom have various plans and designs for the future of Ukraine. For this reason, Germany also has to make some choices. According to Ukraine, Germany will make a choice in favor of Russia.

The fourth is Ukraine’s approach to Berlin. Kiev blames Germany for the concessions made to Russia in the past years and for preventing it from joining NATO. Therefore, Ukraine will not favor Germany after the war.

In conclusion, Berlin does not want to stand out as an actor who led to the defeat of Russia because Germany argues that Russia should withdraw from Ukraine not by defeat, but within the framework of a political reconciliation.

[1]“Германия не хочет принимать решение о передаче Украине танков Leopard 2”, Post Factum,, (Date of Accession: 12.12.2022).

[2]“Посол Украины в Германии надеется на поставки Leopard 2”, Post Factum,, (Date of Accession: 12.12.2022).

[3]“В С UlitsaА прокомментировали решение Германии отправить Leopard 2 Украине”, Lenta.Ru,, (Date of Accession: 12.12.2022).

[4]“Германия отказалась передать Украине 200 бронетранспортеров Fuchs”, Post Factum,, (Date of Accession: 12.12.2022).

[5] “«20−30% немцев против». Шольц назвал еще одну причину, почему не передает Украине танки Leopard 2”, NV,, (Date of Accession: 12.12.2022).


Lisans öğrenimini Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde tamamlayan Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu, yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda almıştır. Doktora eğitimini İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlayan Dr. Askeroğlu, çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında görev yapmıştır. Başlıca ilgi alanları, Avrasya çalışmaları ve Rus dış politikası olan Dr. Askeroğlu, iyi derecede Rusça ve İngilizce bilmektedir.