I've seen this widely reported, e.g. the BBC says

Berlin has reportedly been unwilling to send the vehicles ["much-coveted Leopard tanks"] unless the US commits to providing its own Abrams battle tanks.

But not much in the way of more specific attribution of whom in the German government said that. So who said it like that?


2 Answers 2


The original source of this story appears to be the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which reported on the evening of the 18th that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made the request in a phone call to US President Biden on the 17th:

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is apparently prepared to supply Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, but on one condition. In a telephone conversation with US President Joe Biden on Tuesday, he is said to have made it clear that Germany could only give in to pressure to deliver if the USA for its part delivered Abrams-type battle tanks. Scholz has always emphasised that Germany would not go it alone in providing military support to Ukraine. Biden apparently did not commit himself during the talks. It remained unclear whether this would happen before the meeting of Ukraine supporters in Ramstein this Friday.

The readout of the call from the White House only mentioned that the leaders discussed "their steadfast support to Ukraine and condemned Russia’s aggression", and "their ongoing assistance to Ukraine", and as xyldke points out in a comment, the new German Defence Minister, Boris Pistorius, has said that he is unaware of such a condition.

  • 2
    One has to wonder if that newspaper was overreaching in their interpretation. While I was searching for a source, Politico only said that Sholtz said something more equivocating "that tank deliveries to Ukraine must be discussed “together with friends and allies and especially with our transatlantic partner, with the United States of America.”" Which may or may no mean that. The US seems to have made it more clear [via a deputy assistant secretary of defense] they consider the Abrams a poor[er] choice and expect some European tanks to be delivered. Jan 19, 2023 at 10:16
  • As that comment was too long to also allow me to past the link: politico.eu/article/britain-germany-us-battle-tanks-ukraine-war Jan 19, 2023 at 10:18
  • @Fizz It seems that by now various other newspaper are reporting Scholz as giving this condition (for example zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2023-01/…). They are giving the Süddeutsche Zeitung as a source, as well Bildzeitung.
    – quarague
    Jan 19, 2023 at 10:48
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    "Scholz has always emphasised that Germany would not go it alone in providing military support to Ukraine." If Germany feels alone in providing military support to Ukraine, it means that Poland has gone so far that its well over the horizon. Jan 19, 2023 at 11:47
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    There is now an official statement: Boris Pistorius, who was appointed Defence Minister yesterday, has rejected these claims and stated that he does not know of this particular condition: zeit.de/politik/2023-01/… Scholz may have said something different in a private call (and given the SZ's track record I am inclined to believe them) but whatever he said, his government has quickly gone back on it. Also "I don't know of such a condition" is a wonderful answer that doesn't actually deny the existence of the condition.
    – xyldke
    Jan 20, 2023 at 9:58

I found this bit in an older CNN piece from Jan 19. It's probably the closest to a official and public German demand, back then, albeit was said conditionally...

“If America will decide that they will bring battle tanks to Ukraine, that will make it easier for Germany,” German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck told Bloomberg from Davos on Tuesday.

One unnamed US official seems to have confirmed that at least some on the US side saw that as a hard line back then:

“They have us over a barrel,” a senior Biden administration official told CNN Thursday, adding that the Germans are demanding tanks for tanks, and not budging on considering any other offers the US has made to spur Berlin to send the Leopards.

But it seems that lot has changed in the week since then. Press reports of late yesterday and this morning suggest that both US and Germany will be sending main battle tanks to Ukraine, albeit the official announcements will supposedly come later today, and might not include a specific date for the deliveries.

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