The German government has approved the delivery of 88 of its old Leopard 1 tanks to Kyiv, local media reported Friday.
The move further signals a reversal of Berlin’s policy on tanks for Ukraine, nine days after the chancellery announced it would send one company of Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv as part of a European coalition.
Berlin has OKed German arms-maker Rheinmetall’s plans to sell dozens of the older Leopards to Kyiv, once these are repaired, for a total cost of more than €100 million, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported, quoting “government sources.”
Yet, this risks creating supply bottlenecks, because Leopard 1s are no longer produced, and their shells have a different caliber than the newer Leopard 2s, the newspaper explained.
The German government is also considering buying back 15 Gepard tanks it had sold to Qatar — but might also face some issues there, since ammunition for these is made in Switzerland, which has so far refused to approve re-exports to Ukraine on the grounds that it would breach its neutrality. However, some Swiss lawmakers are pushing for the country to reconsider its position.
After weeks of intense pressure from its partners, Germany announced last week it would approve the delivery of about 80 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, including about 14 of its own tanks, as part of a coalition of European countries. Since the tanks are German-made, other countries willing to send them to Ukraine needed the German government’s approval.
Kyiv has been pressing its allies to send tanks for months, saying it needs hundreds to face a potential Russian counteroffensive in the spring.
The U.K. has also pledged to send Kyiv some of its own Challenger 2 tanks, while the U.S. has said it will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks.