Delivering German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine without Berlin’s go-ahead would be outright unlawful, a German government spokeswoman insisted on Friday.
Poland has announced plans to supply Ukraine with about a dozen of the armored vehicles, while Finland is also mulling such an option.
“That would be illegal,” a deputy government spokeswoman, Christiane Hoffmann, said when asked if the military hardware could simply be handed over to Kiev without prior approval by Germany. “It needs the approval of the federal government,” she told journalists in Berlin, saying “those are the rules.”
However, Berlin does not believe any country would actually take such a step without its permission, Hoffmann said. “It is not something that worries us or what we fear,” she told the media, adding that she did not think it was “a realistic assumption.”
A spokeswoman for the economic ministry also told journalists that a special re-export permit would be required for any such move under the German Foreign Trade Act and the Weapons of War Control Act.
So far, neither Warsaw nor Helsinki have approached Berlin for such approval, according to the German government.
“There is no question to which we have to say no,” Hoffmann explained. She said Berlin was in “constant communication about what is the right thing to do” with other NATO members. Germany’s primary contacts are the US, France and the UK, but it also engages in dialogue with Poland and Spain, the spokeswoman said.
Earlier this week, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced Warsaw’s plan to send “a company of Leopard tanks” to Ukraine. His words came just days after the nation’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said Poland would only do so as a part of an effort by a “broader coalition of states.” He also stated that talks with Germany were “ongoing.”
Finland has also said it would not go it alone on tank deliveries. According to the head of the Finnish parliament’s defense committee, Antti Hakkanen, his nation would only send Leopards if such a decision were made at the European level. Even in that case, he said the Finnish contribution would be “small” as it must prioritize its own defense.