Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his government was expecting “strong decisions” from defence leaders of Nato and other countries meeting on Friday to discuss boosting Ukraine’s battlefield ability with modern battle tanks.
The meeting at Ramstein airbase in Germany is the latest in a series since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago, and where future weapons supplies will be discussed, particularly of Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks used by armies across Europe.
Berlin has veto power over any decision to export the tanks, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has appeared reluctant so far to authorise that for fear of provoking Russia.
Some allies say Berlin’s concern is misplaced, with Russia already fully committed to war, while Moscow has repeatedly said western weapons transfers would prolong the conflict and increase suffering in Ukraine.
“We are, in fact, now waiting for a decision from one European capital, which will activate the prepared chains of co-operation regarding tanks,” Mr Zelenskiy said in a video address on Thursday night. “We are preparing for the Ramstein meeting tomorrow. We are expecting strong decisions. We are expecting a powerful military aid package from the United States,” he said.
A group of 11 Nato countries have pledged a raft of new military aid for Ukraine, ahead of the crunch meeting.
The aid from countries including Britain, Estonia, Latvia and Poland will include tens of stinger air defence systems, S-60 anti-aircraft guns, machine guns and training, according to a statement.
Poland said it was sending S-60 anti-aircraft guns with 70,000 rounds of ammunition and was ready to donate a company of German-made Leopard 2 tanks, “pending (a) wider coalition” of Leopard donors.
Lithuania’s defence minister, Arvydas Anušauskas, has said several countries will announce sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine at Friday’s meeting.
The United States has announced $2.5 billion (€2.3 billion) in new weaponry and munitions for Ukraine. The package includes 90 Stryker armoured personnel carriers, an additional 59 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, Avenger air defence systems, and large and small munitions, according to a Pentagon statement.
CIA director William Burns travelled to Kyiv last week, where he sought to reassure Ukrainian leaders that the United States would maintain support as the war drags on.
Mr Burns, who last visited in November, reinforced that commitment in meetings with Mr Zelenskiy, and his Ukrainian intelligence counterparts, according to a US official. – Guardian