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UKRAINE

Germany authorises manufacturers to send Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine

Germany said it had issued authorisation on Friday for Leopard 1 tanks to be sent to Ukraine, in a further boost for Kyiv as it seeks heavier weapons to counter Moscow's forces.

Leopard tanks at an army base in Bavaria.
Leopard tanks at an army base in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

Berlin has already said it will provide Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2s from its military stocks, but manufacturers also want to send tanks they have in storage.

“I can confirm… that an export licence has been issued,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told a regular press briefing when asked about Leopard 1s.

He declined to give further information, saying more details would likely emerge in the coming days and weeks.

First entering service in the 1960s, the Leopard 1 is the forerunner of the more advanced Leopard 2, which is widely used by armies across Europe.

READ ALSO: Germany gives greenlight for Leopard tank deliveries to Ukraine

German magazine Der Spiegel reported that it concerned 29 Leopard 1s, which were in storage at a military manufacturer.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper meanwhile reported that two manufacturers want to refurbish dozens of Leopard 1s to send them to Ukraine, although they have faced problems in procuring ammunition.

Last month, Berlin finally agreed to sending the powerful German-made Leopards to Ukraine, following weeks of sustained pressure from Kyiv and its European allies.

Under German law, Berlin has to approve the export of the tanks, even in cases when other countries who bought them want to re-export them.

While scores of nations have pledged military hardware for Ukraine in recent weeks, Kyiv has been clamouring for the more sophisticated Leopards, seen as key to punching through enemy lines.

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FRANCE AND GERMANY

Macron-Scholz rift deepens with Ukraine war at crucial juncture

Emmanuel Macron's refusal to rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine has exposed deep divisions with France's traditional partner, Germany, which could play into the hands of Russia, analysts warned Wednesday.

Macron-Scholz rift deepens with Ukraine war at crucial juncture

Following a meeting of Kyiv’s backers in Paris on Monday, Macron made his suggestion, prompting a slapdown from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who insisted there “will be no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European states or NATO states”.

The very public differences between the two leaders of Europe’s biggest powers was a “disaster”, German magazine Spiegel said.

The two could have “demonstrated that they are determined to support the Ukrainians in the trenches”.

“Instead, Chancellor Scholz and President Macron are airing their rivalry in public,” Spiegel said, chalking it up to the leaders’ ego.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Scholz rejects talk of sending troops to Ukraine from Europe or NATO

The open display of discord underlined how relations were at a “very low point”, Rym Momtaz of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told AFP.

Former German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, too, called it “deeply regrettable” that relations between the two were so fragile at a time “when Europe is confronted with the most strategically, militarily and politically difficult crisis in years”.

“If Germany and France are presenting themselves bickering and disunity in front of Russia, where will champagne corks be popping? Not in Washington and not in Italy, but in Moscow,” Ischinger told Welt newspaper.

Cheques but no risk

While Macron and former chancellor Angela Merkel had always sought to present a united front, the French leader and Scholz have struggled to do the same since the German Social Democrat took office in 2021.

There were “several fundamental differences” between the two sides which have spilled over to how to support Ukraine in their battle to repel Russia, Momtaz said, citing a litany of examples from the design of European air defence to sourcing of arms as two further issues.

Ultimately, “these divergences weaken Europe’s capacity to address security challenges”.

With the unease growing over the spat, Scholz’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit sought to play down the latest dispute, saying the disagreement between the two sides was “not dramatic”.

But observers say the two sides share the blame as they jostle for prominence.

“Both are all too happy to present themselves as driving forces in Europe, as thought leaders and doers,” Spiegel said.

Macron appeared to make a point at Germany’s expense on Monday when he criticised partners who had said “we are going to offer sleeping bags and helmets” on the eve of Russia’s invasion.

Berlin was derided when it said it would not send weapons to Ukraine but 5,000 helmets, as Russian forces massed behind Ukraine’s border.

READ ALSO: OPINION – Germany’s timid strategy risks both Ukraine’s defeat and more war in Europe

And once the invasion began, Germany had to be cajoled by allies to approve the delivery of modern battle tanks to Kyiv.

“Today they say, we have to go faster and harder to have missiles and tanks,” Macron continued in his jibe against Berlin, adding that the realisation had a “six-to-12-month delay”.

Berlin meanwhile has consistently rebuffed criticism that it is not doing enough to support Ukraine by pointing to the numbers.

Germany is Ukraine’s second-biggest weapons donor behind only the United States, with France trailing far behind, according to figures compiled by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

With a new package of US military aid held up in Congress, Scholz has repeatedly called on his European neighbours to do more.

Macron’s remarks were intended to counter criticism and show France is a “good ally of Ukraine”, Gaspard Schnitzler from the French IRIS think tank told AFP.

This kind of competitiveness between allies however “leads to nothing”, said Schnitzler.

For now, Paris has dug in its heels behind Macron’s suggestion on ground troops, which he has said maintained “strategic ambiguity” that keeps Russian President Vladimir Putin guessing.

“Closing a door is strategically giving Putin a point,” an adviser to the French executive told AFP.

“If we stop there, we reassure President Putin in his impression that we are weak,” a French diplomatic source also told AFP.

“That is to say, we are willing to write cheques, we are willing to make declarations, we are willing to send guns and we don’t want to take any risks for ourselves.”

 By Sebastien ASH

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