The United States and its allies failed to agree on supplying coveted German battle tanks to Ukraine as Russia issued veiled threats the war could escalate in Europe.
NATO and defence leaders from about 50 countries met at the American Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, the latest in a series of arms-pledging conferences since Russia invaded Ukraine 11 months ago.
European leaders at the meeting again pressed Germany to give the green light for the delivery of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to drive back Moscow’s forces – although no decision was made.
The failure to agree to provide the tanks may signal growing divisions within NATO over supplying such weapons.
Germany’s defence minister Boris Pistorius denied Berlin was unilaterally blocking the delivery of the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, but said his government was ready to move quickly on the issue if there were consensus among allies.
Pressure has been building on Berlin to provide tanks to Kyiv that Ukraine sees as key in the war against Russia.
The impression “there is a united coalition and that Germany is standing in the way is wrong”, Pistorius said, adding “there are many allies who say we share the view that I have put forward here.”
Pistorius said while there was no decision yet on whether to send the Leopard tanks, “We will make our decisions as soon as possible.”
Leopard tanks are seen as especially suitable as they are widely in use, meaning several countries could each chip in some of their tanks to support Ukraine.
Asked whether the supply of increasingly advanced weapons to Ukraine meant the conflict was escalating, he added, “We see a growing indirect and sometimes direct involvement of NATO countries in this conflict.
Peskov said the way to prevent escalation was to heed the strategic concerns that Russia expressed in late 2021, just before it invaded Ukraine.
Before launching its February 24, 2022, invasion, Moscow blamed NATO for undermining the region’s security and sent a list of security demands to the United States.
Russia asked NATO and its allies to ban Ukraine and former Soviet nations from joining the alliance, and called on NATO to scale back activities in Eastern Europe.
Kyiv and Western countries have said these were baseless pretexts for an “imperial-style land grab” in Ukraine.