US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will be “pressing the Germans” to allow their Leopard tanks to be transferred to Ukraine to provide the “capability in a crucial moment” to counter any potential Russian spring offensive, a senior US defense official told CNN Wednesday.
“We are very optimistic that we will make progress on this requirement by the end of the week,” the official added.
Germany has signaled a reluctance to approve the transfer of German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine from other countries. Germany needs to sign off on the transfer before countries such as Poland and Finland, which have openly stated their willingness to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, are allowed to follow through on any shipments.
“We are never going alone, because this is necessary in a very difficult situation like this,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday.
Austin is in Germany, where he is set to meet with the German defense minister before convening a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group Friday to discuss aid for Ukraine with approximately 50 countries and organizations.
“We're really opening the door to create this capability in a crucial moment. Europe is training Ukrainian forces on this capability. We are training Ukrainian forces. Now they actually need the actual capability, the tanks and that is why we are really focusing on," the US official told CNN. “Other countries are ready to do it.”
Some context: The US is set to finalize $2.5 billion in military aid for Ukraine that includes a first shipment of Stryker combat vehicles, sources told CNN. The package is not expected to include tanks or the long-range missiles sought by Kyiv.