Germany’s foreign minister said that Berlin would not stop Poland from sending German-made tanks to Ukraine, while Poland’s prime minister vowed to build a coalition of nations willing to donate some of Europe’s most advanced weaponry — whether Germany participates or not.
Pressure has been growing on Germany to authorize the transfer of its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, which are stocked by many European countries and which Kyiv sees as crucial to its war effort as fighting is expected to intensify again this spring. Polish officials have been among the loudest voices urging Germany to sign off, which it is legally required to do as the tank’s maker.
“We will build a smaller coalition of countries ready to donate some of their modern equipment, modern tanks,” Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, told the Polish Press Agency in an interview published on Sunday. “We will not passively watch Ukraine bleed to death.”
Defense officials meeting in Germany said on Friday that they had failed to reach an agreement on the tanks with Berlin, which so far has resisted sending its own Leopards to Ukraine or giving other countries that have them the necessary approval to export them.
On Sunday, Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, signaled that Berlin was open to at least allowing allies to send the tanks to Ukraine. She told the French channel LCI TV that Germany “wouldn’t stand in the way” if Poland decided to send them, though she added that Warsaw had not yet asked for such authorization.
Her comments seemed to go beyond those made by Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany earlier on Sunday at a summit in Paris, where he said that any decision on the tanks would be made with the United States and other allies, the Reuters news agency reported.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, speaking at the same summit, said that he would consider sending French-made Leclerc tanks to Ukraine but would coordinate any decision with allies.
Also Sunday, the new chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, argued on ABC’s “This Week” that the United States should send at least one M1 Abrams — its best tank — to Ukraine to persuade Germany to greenlight the Leopards. Berlin has pushed for Washington to send Abrams tanks to Kyiv, a request the Biden administration has shown no interest in granting.
Ukraine’s appeals for tanks and more weapons from the West have taken on greater urgency with the approach of spring, when both sides in the conflict are preparing offensives, officials have said. And Russia’s recent claims to have captured the small eastern towns of Soledar and Klishchiivka — part of a broader push to seize the city of Bakhmut — have added to the growing pressure.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that although a few dozen Western tanks might not be decisive compared with Russia’s fleet of hundreds, they would help Ukrainian forces on the battlefield and boost troops’ morale.
“They motivate our soldiers to fight for their own values,” Mr. Zelensky said in an interview with the German TV channel ARD that was broadcast Sunday. “Because they show that the whole world is with you.”
The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said on Monday that the pressure Germany is facing showed “nervousness” among Ukraine’s allies, but warned that Ukraine would ultimately bear the consequences if the West sends tanks.
“The main thing is that the Ukrainian people will have to pay for all these actions, for all this pseudo-support,” he said, according to the official Tass news agency.
Cassandra Vinograd and Matthew Mpoke Bigg contributed reporting.