Thursday, January 19, 2023

Canada's Catch-22 situation in sending tanks to Ukraine

Canada, like Poland and Finland, wants to send some of their German-built Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to aid in its existential fight against Russia. But we are in the bizarre situation of having to wait for German "permission" to do so.

This is not just a diplomatic courtesy; when Western countries sell weapons, including main battle tanks, to other countries, they normally include an "end-use declaration", which verifies that the buyer is in fact the final user of the weapon, and that it does not intend to transfer them to a third country or use them for another purpose. This is an understandable and even laudable safety clause, and ensures that the weapons are not ultimately used by regimes with poor human rights records, or for causes that the selling country disapproves of.

It seems strange that Canada needs Germany's permission to dispose of its own military equipment, but that's how it is. It should be noted, however, that Poland is considering sending Ukraine its Leopard 2 tanks even without German permission, arguing that Ukraine cannot wait, and that the humanitarian imperative should overrule the niceties of contract law.

Now, the waters have muddied further as a cautious Germany is now saying that it will not allow any of its tanks to be sent to Ukraine unless the USA also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks there too, a kind of I-will-if-you-will arrangement presumably designed to ensure that Germany is not seen by Russia as an outspoken aggressor. The problem, say the Americans, is that Abrams tanks in particular are very complex and expensive pieces of equipment requiring substantial training, and American security advisors are loath to promise them to Ukraine. Which means that Germany is unlikely to release its own tanks, or to allow other countries to send their own German-built tanks. Catch-22.

Thus far, Britain is the only Western benefactor that has definitively promised Ukraine tanks (as opposed to armoured trucks and personnel carriers). It has just announced it is sending 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks and ammunition, delivery date unknown.


A major meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, at which several countries tried to persuade Germany to give its permission to send the Leopend 2 tanks to Ukraine, ended in stalemate, as Germany continues to block the more aggressive tendencies of other Euroean allies (and, strangely, the usually modest and circumspect Canadians), a stalemate that Ukraine's foreign minister calls a "huge disappointment for all Ukrainians".

The only thing they managed to agree on at the meeting was to declare the Russian Wagner Group an international terrorist organization (technically a "Transnational Criminal Organization", which would immediately allow for sanctions to be levied against it), something that should have been enacted months, if not years, ago. Negotiations continue on the much-needed tanks, but Germany seems very reluctant to commit itself, or to allow other countries to commit themselves if it might be perceived by Russia as a German initiative (and, of course, Russia would immediately interpret it as such, it being in their propaganda interests).

No comments: