Armed Forces

Leopards for Poland? Switzerland Says “No” [COMMENTARY]

Polish Leopard 2A4 MBT.
Photo. senior staff chor. R. Mniedło/11 LDKPanc.

The Swiss have rejected the Polish request to supply Poland with Leopard 2 MBTs. The MBTs remain in storage, but they still belong to the Swiss Army. The Swiss decision is somewhat aligned with Switzerland’s actions tied to bringing to a halt even indirect delivery of weapons to Ukraine. It also bears some meaning, when considering the Polish-German talks on the acquisition of further Leopard MBTs.

As announced by the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport, Poland expressed interest in the Leopard 2A4 MBTs remaining in storage and belonging to the Swiss Army. The request has been justified by the fact that Poland has transferred some of its armament, including heavy assets, to Ukraine, and it needs to recover the lost assets.

The Swiss authorities, however, rejected the request. This has been justified by the fact that the MBTs would need to be formally withdrawn, while the transfer would also require parliamentary approval. Carrying out a process as such - as the Swiss maintain - would mean that it would not be possible to finalize the offer for Poland in a "usable" period.

The very same release also states that Rheinmetall can freely decide what to do with 42 Leopard 2A4 MBTs procured from Switzerland between 2010 and 2011. However, these MBTs have had their armament removed. Originally they were to be used as base platforms for specialist vehicles. The potential decision on the export of those MBTs remains in the hands of the German government.

Notably, Switzerland currently has at least 96 Leopard 2A4 MBTs (Pz 87) at its disposal. These are stored in good technical condition, as NZZ Magazin recently announced. The Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport is also considering reintroduction of those MBTs into the inventory of the Swiss military, given the tense situation in the wake of the full-scale war in Ukraine.

Switzerland And Military Aid for Ukraine

Switzerland also rejected requests filed by another two states, regarding the potential transfer of weapons manufactured there to Ukraine. The above refers to 22 Danish Piranha III APCs, and 12.4 thousand rounds of ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft systems - as requested by Germany. In both cases, the neutral stance was listed as the main reason here. Decisions as such can hamper the process of transferring support by Copenhagen or Berlin.

When it comes to Denmark, everything would boil down - probably - to a transfer of US-made M113 APCs. Meanwhile, the rejection of the possible transfer of Gepard ammunition may make it impossible for Ukraine to put this vital air defence system into use - and Kyiv has been asking for these assets for months now.

The Swiss policy allows for the delivery of a limited quantity of components to the warzone, for enterprises involved in such activities. Thus, any delivery of elements required to manufacture anti-tank, or anti-aircraft systems to Germany or Italy shall continue, despite the risk that those may end up in the Ukrainian warzone. It will not go unnoticed though, that the Swiss politics relevantly hamper the provision of military aid to Ukraine.

Switzerland, Leopards, Poland?

The release issued by the Swiss defence ministry is yet another confirmation of the fact that Poland is seeking Leopard 2 procurement opportunities, after donating major quantities of T-72 MBTs to Ukraine, within the scope of the military aid scheme. Talks with Germany have come to a deadlock though.

"Der Spiegel" claimed that this was caused by the fact that Poland only expressed its interest in the MBTs in the latest variant. The information coming from Switzerland directly suggesting Warsaw has been asking for Leopard 2A4 MBTs show that Poland was also considering the acquisition of legacy MBTs.

The lack of communications between Poland and Germany could have been impacted by other factors, such as the indirect connection of the purchase of the MBTs, or upgrades to another standard (as happened in the case of the Czech Republic), the technical condition, or the underlying finances. Finally, Poland is also currently engaged in talks on accelerated delivery of Abrams MBTs from the US, and the acquisition of K2PL MBTs from South Korea. The latter option could also involve the delivery of existing K2 MBTs as a gap filler. For now, it remains difficult to assess how Poland is going to recover the stock after the majority of T-72 MBTs are handed over to Ukraine.