Germany stands “shoulder to shoulder” with its allies in supporting Ukraine, the country's newly appointed Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Thursday.
"Together with our partners, we will continue to support Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and territorial independence and sovereignty," Pistorius told reporters in Berlin on Thursday ahead of talks with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
"As so often in history – but especially in times like these – Germany and the United States of America stand shoulder to shoulder," added Pistorius.
Pistorius – sworn in as new defense minister only hours earlier – immediately faces a key decision as to whether to send modern battle tanks such as the German-made Leopard 2 to Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have called on Germany to provide the Leopard 2 battle tanks swiftly to push back Russian forces who invaded the country on 24 February last year.
For his part, Austin thanked Germany on Thursday for its efforts to "strengthen Ukraine's self-defense."
The US defense secretary also thanked Germany for its "strong support" of the United States' "increased presence" and for facilitating the movement of soldiers and equipment "to and through Germany to reinforce our eastern flank allies."
High-level talks: Austin's meeting with Pistorius on Thursday comes as Germany faces increased pressure to send tanks to Ukraine.
Thursday's meeting is one of a series of high-level talks on Ukraine taking place this week.
Friday will see a key meeting of NATO's Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the US Ramstein Air Base, hosted by Austin, focusing on more military aid for Ukraine.
Austin said the two defense chiefs will discuss Thursday "some of the issues that we'll tackle tomorrow at the contact group."
"We'll also discuss other key issues for the NATO and for our bilateral defense relationship and ways that we can do even more together," Austin added.
On Wednesday, a senior US defense official said that Austin will be “pressing the Germans” to allow their Leopard tanks to be transferred to Ukraine to give Kyiv the “capability in a crucial moment” to counter any potential Russian spring offensive.
“We are very optimistic that we will make progress on this requirement by the end of the week,” the official added.