Why Were Germany and the US Reluctant to Send Tanks to Ukraine?
The U.S. and Germany formally approved sending M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine after weeks of debate and international pressure. But why were they reluctant in the first place?
For Context: Ukraine has requested modern battle tanks like the Leopard 2 since shortly after the war began, and an expected spring offensive by Russian troops has made those calls increasingly urgent. While Ukraine’s Western allies have sent plenty of other weapons — missiles, artillery systems, and more — they have been reluctant to send modern battle tanks.
Recent Developments: American and German officials have cited logistical and maintenance issues as factors in their reluctance, as well as concerns for their own weapons inventories. As Ukraine’s Western allies debated sending tanks, some German officials said they wouldn’t send their own tanks — or allow other countries to send their Leopard 2s — unless the U.S. also sent its M1 Abrams tanks. Both the U.S. and Germany reversed course on Tuesday; the U.S. announced Wednesday that it would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks.
How the Media Covered It: Ukraine’s tank requests were covered sympathetically across the spectrum. Right-rated outlets were particularly supportive of tank shipments and often featured commentators who supported the move. Explainers on Germany’s reluctance were more common in center and left-rated outlets, which publish “explainer” content more frequently than right-rated outlets do.
Featured Coverage of this Story
From the RightGermany Refuses to Step Up on Tanks for Ukraine
On the menu today: We hear a great deal about the importance of working with our allies in foreign policy, but that happy rhetoric glides past the fact even our longstanding allies can often be real pains in the tuckus, dragging their feet on key decisions. The Ukrainian government says it needs more tanks to fight the war against the invading Russians. President Biden says Ukraine will get what it needs. But the German government wants the U.S. to send its own tanks before it sends any German ones, other...
From the CenterScholz defends decision to send battle tanks to Ukraine
After weeks of mounting pressure, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced that Germany would be sending Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. The decision triggered a charged debate in the federal parliament, the Bundestag.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed on Wednesday that Germany would be delivering an initial 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks to Ukraine and allowing partner countries to re-export their own German-made heavy battle tanks to the country.
Speaking at the start of a question-and-answer session in the German Bundestag, Scholz said, "It is right that we act closely with our international partners to support...
From the LeftWhy Germany Agonized Over Sending Tanks to Ukraine
Germany has finally decided to send its coveted Leopard 2 battle tanks to the Ukrainian frontlines, German news magazine Der Spiegel first reported Tuesday, though a formal announcement has yet to be made. The about turn comes as U.S. officials revealed this week that the Biden administration also plans to shed its prior reluctance and begin to supply tanks to Ukraine.
Last year, Germany’s approach to the ongoing war in Ukraine was defined by Zeitenwende—the historic “turning point” in which Chancellor Olaf Scholz scrapped decades of Germany’s military policy in order to meet...