To coordinate additional military aid for Ukraine, Lloyd J. Austin III, the U.S. defence secretary, convened a meeting of Western defence officials on Friday. However, the crucial question of whether European tank supply to Kyiv would be permitted remained unanswered.
It was still unknown whether Berlin will send any of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine or permit other European countries to transfer their stocks of the German-built weapon to the conflict despite growing pressure from numerous European allies.
Kyiv’s allies pledged substantial shipments of weapons to the front line in the weeks leading up to the summit, which was held at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base. Mr Austin reaffirmed on Friday that the United States would defend Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” flanked by Oleksii Reznikov, the defence minister of Ukraine, and Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Russia is regrouping, recruiting and trying to re-equip. This is not a moment to slow down — it’s a time to dig deeper,” Mr Austin added. “The Ukrainian people are watching us, the Kremlin is watching us, and history is watching us,” he continued.
The discussion at the meeting, which is attended by representatives from up to 50 nations, is on how to arm Ukraine so that it can attempt to drive Russian soldiers out of the region it has taken in eastern Ukraine. Mr Austin reviewed the new pledges for armoured vehicles and air defence systems, highlighting most prominently the Patriot missiles produced in the United States. But the weapon that Ukraine and some of its supporters have claimed is most urgently required in recent weeks—tanks—was not included in that list.
There have been rumours that Berlin will not send any of its Leopards unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks, something that the Biden administration has been unwilling to do. However, in an interview on Thursday night, Germany’s new defence minister, Boris Pistorius, stated that he was “not aware of any such linkage.”