Can the German leopard change its spots? Last February, just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chancellor Scholz said yes. He argued that the “Zeitenwende” (new era) would lead to a fundamental change in its post-Second World War and Cold War foreign policy, particularly regarding Russia. He then spent most of 2022 prevaricating.
Germany’s Leopard-2 tank has become the symbol of Berlin’s reluctance to fully commit to the defence of Ukraine. A large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive, or defence against a renewed Russian offensive this year, needs modern battle tanks, and the Leopard-2 is regarded as the best for the job. There are 2,300 of them in Europe and several nations are willing to give them to Ukraine. However, this requires German re-export licenses which are to date unavailable.