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Germany has more brains than the US.

Zelenskyy has the same chance of "winning" that we did in Vietnam or Afghanistan. He refuses to negotiate and Germany wisely wants to move this into a peace settlement scenario.


Biden's approach will only escalate the conflict, which is lunacy. The idea that Putin will magically leave the Donbas is a non-starter. He's won and will keep dishing out the pain and run out the clock till Ukraine's allies run out of patience.


U.S., Allies Fail to Persuade Germany to Allow Tanks for Ukraine

Washington promises $2.5 billion in new military aid but rift forms in alliance


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for more contributions from allies via video at the meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.


By Gordon Lubold and Michael R. Gordon, WSJ

Updated Jan. 20, 2023 5:00 pm ET



RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany—U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin failed to persuade Berlin to allow other European nations to send German-built tanks to Ukraine, exposing the first significant rift within an alliance that has held steady since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.


Berlin’s resistance to pressure from the U.S. and European allies eager to send their own German-made Leopard 2 tanks has frustrated the White House and many European governments ahead of what they see as a critical phase of the war.


Kyiv has been planning a series of operations in the next few months to try to break through Russian defensive lines and take back territory, including to the south where Russia has established a land bridge from Rostov to the Crimean Peninsula.


U.S. officials said they would continue to push Germany either to send some of its own Leopard tanks or sign off on transfers by other countries, including Finland, Poland and Denmark.


Some U.S. lawmakers and military analysts fear the dispute will delay the provision of badly needed armor to Ukraine—and signal a softening of support for Kyiv that Russian President Vladimir Putin could try to exploit.


In a news conference here Friday, Mr. Austin avoided criticizing Berlin and said Germany and other nations were sending weapon systems that would greatly help Ukraine.


“We can all do more,” Mr. Austin said when asked about Germany’s contributions. “They are a reliable ally and they have been that way for a very, very long time and I truly believe they will continue to be a reliable ally going forth.”


German officials initially said they wouldn’t send Leopards unless the U.S. provided its own Abrams tanks. Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, has told German television that German and U.S. tanks don’t need to be provided at the same time and indicated that his government was still weighing what to do.


Mr. Austin didn’t say whether the U.S. would reconsider its decision not to send U.S. Abrams tanks, which the Pentagon has said consume large quantities of fuel and would be very difficult for the Ukrainians to operate and maintain.


But with the unity of the alliance in question and the Ukrainains preparing for a counteroffensive to regain ground in coming months, some politicians in Washington urged the White House to rethink its position.


Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said in an email message Friday that the U.S. should send some Abrams to prod the Germans to send Leopards.


Russian media has portrayed the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar as a major strategic outpost after Moscow claimed its troops seized it in their first victory in months. WSJ’s Ian Lovett fact-checked the propaganda reports. Photo: Diana Chan

“The U.S. is thinking too technically about the challenges of Abrams and not politically enough about the importance of our driving the debate,” said Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. He said failing to break the logjam over the Leopards “risks losing momentum for Ukraine.”


The rift over the tanks hung over meetings Friday of senior defense officials from about 50 countries, where the U.S. and others promised billions of dollars in new military assistance to help Ukraine at a pivotal moment in its fight to push back against Russia’s invasion.


“The Russians are really digging in,” Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy official, said earlier this week.


The goal of providing more armor and other weapons systems, he added, is to avoid a grinding slugfest and help Ukraine “combine fire and maneuver in a way that will prove to be more effective.”


Toward that end, the U.S. on Friday announced its latest tranche of military aid for Ukraine, a $2.5 billion package that for the first time includes 90 Strykers—wheeled, armored vehicles that carry troops and provide high-level maneuverability on the battlefield. About 20 of the 90 Strykers have mine rollers, which protect the vehicle from land mines.


In recent days, the U.S. also began training Ukrainians in Germany on how to tie together much of the weaponry and vehicles that are being provided when they maneuver on the battlefield.


Sweden will send its self-propelled Archer artillery system, while the Netherlands and Germany are each planning to send a Patriot missile defense battery to add to the one the U.S. is providing.


By March, Poland plans to train and equip a brigade’s worth of Ukrainian soldiers with infantry-fighting vehicles and Soviet-style T-72 battle tanks leftover from the Cold War, Polish Prime Minister Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters.


Britain has said it would send a squadron of 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, in what would be the first Western battle tanks sent to Kyiv.


Current and former U.S. officials see the potential for Ukraine to field a large number of Leopard tanks as an important step to boost Kyiv’s armor punch. U.S. officials, in fact, had seemed optimistic when Mr. Austin’s plane landed in Berlin on Wednesday that a deal over the tanks could be reached by the end of the week.


“Tanks and armored personnel carriers are essential,” said Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. “Certainly they are essential for Ukraine’s counteroffensives, which simply cannot use the Russian World War I approach of masses of artillery and cannon fodder. So if Ukraine does not have sufficient mechanized vehicles to conduct a large-scale and protracted counteroffensive it will be unable to make significant territorial gains.”


A group of 14 countries that have Leopards met during Friday’s gathering to discuss which among them would be willing to donate their tanks, putting more pressure on Mr. Scholz.


Poland, which had initially floated the idea of donating 14 Leopards even if Germany didn’t approve, toned down that rhetoric, expressing optimism that subsequent video meetings in coming days would deliver a breakthrough.


Mr. Pistorius, the German defense minister, said he had commissioned a survey of all Leopard tanks owned by the German government and private sector, and asked all allies who had purchased the model to do the same in their countries. He added that allies should start training Ukrainian troops in the use of Leopard tanks, in case a decision is made in the coming days.


Germany was initially seen as the one of the most reluctant European countries to help Ukraine. Until the current dispute over the Leopard tanks, Berlin had taken steps to erase that image by providing an advanced IRIS-T air-defense system and pledging to provide Marder infantry-fighting vehicles. Germany’s latest package of military aid will exceed 1 billion euros, Mr. Pistorius said, equivalent to $1.08 billion.


Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that the additional weaponry from the West wouldn’t make a difference in the fight.


“It will add problems to Ukraine, but it will not change anything in terms of Russia advancing its goals,” Mr. Peskov told reporters.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who appeared by video at the Ramstein gathering of senior defense officials, said he was truly grateful to allies for the weaponry provided so far, which has enabled his country to push back on Russia’s attacks.


But time, Mr. Zelensky said, remains a Russian weapon, and nations must speed up their contributions.


“Time must become our common weapon, just like air defense and artillery, armored vehicles and tanks, which we are negotiating about with you and which actually will make the victory,” Mr. Zelensky said.


—Drew Hinshaw, Georgi Kantchev, Bojan Pancevski, Nancy A. Youssef and Karolina Jeznach contributed to this article.



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