LONDON — U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is leading discussions with Western allies on how to send “game-changing” tanks to Ukraine, Downing Street said.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters Wednesday that the U.K. was “accelerating” its support for Ukraine “with the kind of next-generation military technology that will help win this war.”
He said tanks could be a “game-changing capability,” as the U.K. considers whether to supply Kyiv with Challenger II tanks.
“It’s clear that battle tanks could provide a game-changing capability to the Ukrainians,” he said. “The prime minister told President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy last week the U.K. will provide whatever we can. The prime minister has asked the defense secretary to work with partners in the coming weeks to discuss how we can go even further and faster on our support to Ukraine including the provision of tanks.”
A Western official said Ukraine needs tanks and armored vehicles in order to win back significant territory occupied by Russia once the weather improves in early spring, especially around fortified positions.
The same official added that a reported request by the Ukrainian government for about 300 tanks was “not an unreasonable number” to create the mass needed for a second successful counteroffensive against Russian invaders.
Much attention is now focused on whether Germany will also agree to send Leopard 2 tanks, paving the way for a host of EU countries to do so. As the tanks are German made, Berlin’s permission is needed for them to be exported on.
Poland has said it is ready to send that heavy armor. “A company of Leopard tanks for Ukraine will be transferred as part of international coalition building. Such a decision is already [taken] in Poland,” President Andrzej Duda said in a tweet.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Tagesschau news channel in an interview on Wednesday that he is certain Germany will utimately deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
“Even if Germany has certain rational arguments for not doing it, Germany will do it anyway at a later date. We have already seen this with the self-propelled howitzers, with the IRIS-T anti-aircraft system and most recently with the Marder and Patriot systems,” Kuleba continued.
He said Berlin has followed a pattern of hesitation when it came to discussions around supply of advanced weaponry. “First they say no, then they vigorously defend their decision, only to finally say yes,” Kuleba concluded.