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Geopolitics

Slovakia Rejects the German MBTs - Berlin Offers Too Little [COMMENTARY]

Austrian Leopard 2A4.
Photo. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathanael Mercado

Germany offered just 15 Leopard 2A4 MBTs to Slovakia, in exchange for 30 T-72s that the Slovaks could transfer to Ukraine, hence Bratislava rejected Berlin’s proposal, Business Insider reports. Berlin’s stance is a blow to the allied credibility, and could potentially be viewed as a sign of weakness by Russia.

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According to Business Insider, the Spokeswoman for the Slovak MoD confirmed the fact that Bratislava rejected the German offer to deliver Leopard 2A4 MBTs, in exchange for T-72 MBTs that could be potentially sent to Ukraine, as a part of the military aid package. The reason is simple, Germany offered just 15 Leopard 2A4 MBTs, for 30 T-72s that could be handed off to Ukraine.

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At least 30 MBTs are needed by the only Slovak MBT battalion. At least - it is still a modest number, since the Polish battalion-level elements use 58 MBTs, while German units as such consist of 44 MBTs. Bratislava is still talking to its allies, discussing the possible options of enhancing its defence capabilities, to be able to transfer the post-Soviet equipment to Ukraine.

Earlier, Slovakia had delivered a single S-300PMU battery to Ukraine. It currently hosts German, Dutch, and US Patriot batteries. Slovakia also declared its readiness to transfer its Mi-17 helicopters and rocket artillery rounds. Maybe other solutions are being considered (such as the transfer of the Spanish Leopard MBTs; Germany has blocked a potential transfer of those to Ukraine). Slovakia may also receive M1A1 Abrams MBTs, within the scope of the lend-lease scheme.

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Slovakia is yet another state that cannot come to an agreement with Berlin on "ringtausch" - exchange of the military equipment transferred to Kyiv, for its western counterparts. Poland also asked Germany to provide it with Leopard 2A4 MBTs, as some of its T-72s have been transferred to Ukraine. For quite some time now, Slovenia has also been engaged in talks on the transfer of its M-84 MBTs - without any results.

The Czech Republic has been the only country so far that has reached an agreement with Germany, concerning the potential MBTs exchange. Delivery of 15 Leopard 2A4s for Prague would be followed by procurement of up to 50 Leopard 2A7s though. The T-72s bound to be transferred to Ukraine would come partially from the active units, and partially from the surplus stock.

Considering the reports from Slovakia, and the Polish and Slovenian deadlocks, it needs to be said that the German armour exchange proposals are not beneficial for the nations that could potentially be involved. It may be assumed that Berlin, offering a smaller number of MBTs, wants to secure benefits for the German defence industry in the longer run - with potential deliveries of new MBTs expected. Noteworthy, the transfer of the Leopard 2A4 MBTs would have no detrimental impact on the Bundeswehr's stock - the German Army no longer uses the type. These vehicles are owned by KMW and Rheinmetall. The procurement cost - which likely should not exceed 100 million euros for 30 MBTs - would probably not become a major burden on the German budget.

Berlin also does not accept the plan to deliver its surplus Leopard 1A5 MBTs to Ukraine (even though these could be a worthy enemy for the legacy Russian MBTs). The Bundeswehr has not been using these for a long time now. The German stance has a detrimental impact on the allied credibility. Berlin has assumed a dichotomy-based stance, providing limited military support for Ukraine (delivery of Panzerfaust 3 ATGW), and also refraining from supplying armour and mechanized platforms, even the decommissioned ones. Russia may perceive this as a sign of weakness, inviting Moscow to continue the escalation, even if Berlin's intent is different.

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