Foreign Secretary would like to see Ukrainians equipped with German tanks

The Foreign Secretary has claimed he would like “nothing more” than to see Ukrainians armed with German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

James Cleverly was asked on the BBC Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme whether he was disappointed Germany did not authorise the release of its Leopard 2 battle tanks.

Mr Cleverly refused to directly criticise Berlin, stressing that, ultimately, it is for “every sovereign government to decide how they are best able to support the Ukrainians as a member of Nato”.

However, he noted there is nothing he would like more than to see the Ukrainians equipped “with those most up-to-date armoured vehicles”.

He said: “Over Christmas and in the new year, I had conversations with the Defence Secretary, with the Prime Minister, other senior members of Government, about our posture with regard to Ukraine.

“The Prime Minister decided quite rightly that the most humane thing to do is to bring this war to a swift conclusion and for the Ukrainians to be successful in the defence of the homeland.

“That is why we made the commitment to significantly increase our military support to Ukraine, to help them defend themselves, including with Challenger 2 tanks.

“I would like nothing more than to see the Ukrainians equipped with those most up-to-date armoured vehicles, both tanks and artillery, and others. The Leopard 2 is an incredibly effective piece of military equipment. I would like nothing more than to see the Ukrainians armed with Leopard 2.”

He said that Germany has been a “huge contributor” and that he does not think we “should ignore that”, adding: “Both in terms of its hosting of refugees, in terms of its provision of military equipment, economic aid, and also in terms of its application of sanctions.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
A Challenger 2 main battle tank at Royal Tank Regiment HQ, Tidworth, Wiltshire (Ben Birchall/PA)

“Ultimately, it’s for every sovereign government to decide how they are best able to support the Ukrainians as a member of Nato.”

His comments come after a pledging conference in Germany on Friday ended without a commitment by Western allies to send more battle tanks to Ukraine, despite a call from President Volodymyr Zelensky to speed up the delivery of military support in his country’s struggle against Russia.

So far among the Nato allies, only the UK has agreed to send tanks, in the form of 14 British Army Challenger 2s.

There had been hopes that Germany would authorise the release of its battle tanks, which are potentially available in far greater numbers, but at the conclusion of the meeting at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said: “I don’t have any announcements to make on M1s (US Abrams tanks), and you heard the German minister of defence say that they’ve not made a decision on Leopards.”

He said officials were “pushing hard to meet Ukraine’s requirements for tanks and other armoured vehicles”.