Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave an impassioned speech Friday to 50 of the world’s top defense officials and warned them he can’t use “words instead of guns” as they failed to secure an agreement on sending Kyiv German-made tanks.
“Terror does not allow for discussion,” Zelenskyy said. “The terror, which burns city after city, becomes insolent when it feels that the defenders of freedom run out of weapons against it.”
“All of us can use thousands of words in discussions, but I cannot put words instead of guns that are needed against Russian artillery,” he added.
Despite Zelenskyy’s address his chief partners at Germany’s Ramstein air base, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group failed to secure an agreement to send Kyiv tanks as the battle in eastern Ukraine rages.
The holdup largely stems from Berlin’s refusal to send its Leopard II tanks or to permit any of the 15 partner nations that possess the tanks, like Poland, to send the German-made tanks from their own stockpiles.
Berlin drew international exasperation this week when it voiced concern that sending Ukraine tanks would escalate the war even more as Ukraine is not a NATO member nation.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak on Friday said the 15 nations had met on the sidelines of the event to discuss a deal, describing it as a “good discussion among allies” but noted that the discussions were on going as no agreement was reached.
Poland’s deputy foreign minister also said Friday that Warsaw may look to send Ukraine its Leopard II tanks even without Germany’s re-export approval.
“I do not rule out that we are ready to take such a step,” Pawel Jablonski said according to Reuters.”At the moment we are trying to make Germany not only agree these tanks being sent by Poland or other countries, but also to do so themselves.”
The U.S. has said it will not send its own M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, citing cost, maintenance and training as key factors and instead pledged this month to send over 100 Bradley Fight Vehicles and 90 Stryker combat vehicles, along with hundreds of other combat ready vehicles.
Washington also believes sending Leopard II tanks would be more efficient as over a dozen European nations have them in their possession and training on the tanks would be less intensive.
Germany has suggested it would not agree to send its tanks until the U.S. does the same, though this line a reasoning has reportedly bewildered some in the Biden administration as the U.K. has already pledged to send its Challenger II tanks.
“It is about what kind of world people will live in,” Zelenskyy said. “It is about people who believe that evil and hatred will always lose.”
“It is in your power to make a Ramstein of tanks. Not to bargain about different numbers of tanks, but to open a principled supply that will stop Russian evil,” he added.