A Polish Leopard 2 tank seen in Germany 2022 during a military exercise. (Armin Weigel/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

Germany failed to reach an agreement with its key Western allies on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, despite growing pressure from NATO and Kyiv to step up its military aid ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive.

Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces as the war with Russia approaches the one-year mark.

But Germany has batted back claims it is dragging its feet on providing military support to Ukraine, and has called on the US to send its own tanks across the Atlantic and into Ukraine.

Why Leopard 2 tanks are so important: Thirteen European countries, including Poland and Finland, are already in possession of modern German Leopard 2 tanks, which were introduced in 1979 and have been upgraded several times since, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

Many of them have agreed to re-export some tanks to Kyiv, but require Germany’s permission. Representatives for those countries that own Leopard tanks met on the sidelines of a meeting at Ramstein air base in Germany, according to the Portuguese Ministry of Defense.

In total, there are around 2,000 Leopard 2 vehicles spread across Europe, at different levels of readiness.

Each tank contains a 120mm Smoothbore gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun. It can reach speeds of 70 km per hour, or 50 km per hour when off-road, making maneuverability one of its key features. There is also an all-around protection from threats, including improvised explosive devices, mines or anti-tank fire, according to its German manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.

The vast number of units already based near Ukraine, and the Leopard’s relatively low-maintenance demands compared to other models, lead experts to believe the tanks could help Ukraine quickly.

Why is Germany dragging its feet on Ukraine aid? The frustration felt by some NATO members toward Germany has bolstered a narrative in some corners that Berlin has been slower than its Western counterparts in offering support to Ukraine.

Germany had been expected to announce a decision on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine on Friday, but instead said it needed more time.

Additionally, the appointment of Boris Pistorius as Germany’s new defense minister this week has raised questions given his previous stances on Russia.

Polish leader Mateusz Morawiecki cited Pistorius’ previous support for easing sanctions against Russia along with his relationship with “close associate” Gerhard Schröder. The former German chancellor was forced to give up his office at the German Parliament (Bundestag) for failing to sever his Russian business ties following Moscow’s invasion.

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