Some European allies are not happy with the way things went during the meeting of NATO defense ministers at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, given it became obvious that the allies would not be transferring heavy tanks to the Ukrainian battlefield anytime soon.
Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, announced the morning after officials failed to reach an agreement that his country alongide Estonia "call on Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now. This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and restore peace in Europe quickly. Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard."
Several NATO countries have been on standby after expressing willingness to send the highly sophisticated German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, namely, Poland, Denmark and Finland - but Berlin has to sign off on it first.
Neither Washington nor Berlin are ready to take the lead on this, with Germany's new defense minister Boris Pistorius having stressed following the meeting that "we have to be careful because we have a duty to look carefully and intensively at what might be the consequences for anybody in that conflict."
Poland too is said to be waiting impatiently. "Poland's Defense Ministry did not immediately confirm Reznikov's assertion, but Polish officials have been among the most vociferous voices urging Germany to clear the way for Leopards," according to one US media report. "The Polish government has said it stands ready to send some of its own, though legally it needs Germany to sign off on any such move."
The reference was to Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov's earlier assertion "Countries that already have Leopard tanks can begin training missions for our tank crews" inside Poland. "We will start with that, and we will go from there." But the Polish government didn't confirm this plan.
President Zelensky's office has been scathing in its critique of Germany and US slowness to move on the issue, with presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak saying "indecision is killing more of our people."
"You'll help Ukraine with the necessary weapons anyway and realize that there is no other option to end the war," he said on Twitter, adding: "Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster."
German parliamentarian @SevimDagdelen on US pressuring Germany to send tanks to Ukraine, while the US refuses to do the same: the US is seeking "to prevent cooperation between Germany and Russia forever." https://t.co/QmgUFcCr0X— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) January 19, 2023
Zelensky in a weekend address said: "We will still have to fight for the supply of modern tanks, but every day we make it more obvious there is no alternative to making the decision on tanks." He then said, "The only thing worth emphasizing is the time, the delivery time. Each agreement must be implemented as quickly as possible."
Russia, meanwhile, continues to make gains in the east and south of Ukraine. Referencing the Zaporizhzhia region, the defense ministry cited "advantageous positions" in a Saturday statement."As a result of offensive operations, units of the Eastern Military District took more advantageous lines and positions," it said.
According to a summary of recent advances in Newsweek, "The reported ramped up fighting in Zaporizhzhia came as Russian and Wagner Group forces claim to be making gains in Eastern Donetsk, where Russia has been conducting a monthslong and grinding fight to capture the Ukrainian-controlled city of Bakhmut."
And further, "The Wagner Group's chief, Russian President Vladimir Putin's ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced Thursday on Telegram that his forces had taken full control of the village of Klishchiivka just south of Bakhmut."