German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who named a new defense minister on Tuesday, faced increased pressure from several EU partners to authorize the export of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
The issue featured prominently in discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Scholz is a star speaker on Wednesday.
Leaders and ministers from Finland, Lithuania, and Poland all urged him to quickly authorize sending the advanced Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv.
Polish President Andrzej Duda reminded listeners that Poland had offered to send around 14 German-made Leopards but needed Berlin’s approval to export them.
“We hope and we are trying to organise a bigger support for Ukraine,” Duda said in English, adding: “We hope that the producer of those tanks, Germany, will also participate in this, in my opinion, very, very, very good idea.”
Speaking in the same discussion about European defense, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda likened the war to a game of chess and suggested Germany needed to make a move now.
“I like to play chess. You have to take the move and others will follow. Someone has to take this leadership and take this decision to support Ukraine because the tanks become a very strategic factor of this war, especially now,” he said.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto also said Finland backed heavy tank deliveries, a move long resisted by Ukraine’s Western partners out of fear that it would antagonize the Kremlin.
“We hope that this decision (to deliver Leopards) will be made real, and Finland is definitely ready to play its part in that support,” he said during a sideline event at a Ukraine-themed pavilion.
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday after facing sustained criticism.
Scholz on Tuesday announced Boris Pistorius, a relatively unknown politician from his center-left Social Democrat from the state of Lower Saxony, as her replacement.
Britain announced at the weekend that it would provide modern Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, making it the first Western country to supply the heavy armor.
Ukraine’s European allies have sent Kyiv more than 300 modernized Soviet tanks since Russia invaded in February 2022.