Tanks for Ukraine to be delivered in March, minister tells Nato meeting
Leopard tanks donated to the Ukrainian army by a coalition of supporting countries and shipped to Poland will reach Ukraine in March, Poland's defence minister told a Tuesday sitting of defence ministers from Ukraine-supporting Nato countries in Brussels.
Mariusz Błaszczak said the tanks will be delivered after their future crews have learnt to operate them. Ukrainian tank crews designated to operate the Leopards are currently in training in Poland.
After the talks, Błaszczak said the Russia-Ukraine war was forcing the European countries to rebuild their defences after years of arms reductions and downplaying the threats posed by Russia.
"Europe and the West are reconstructing their defence capabilities, but for years these defences were being downsized, and there were countries who ignored the Russian threat," Błaszczak said.
He added that "there were even countries who cooperated with Russia, which helped build up its military power," and said the situation called for raised defence production in Europe.
Błaszczak said the ministers also discussed ways to provide the Ukrainian army with more munition and spare parts.
Referring to Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg's comments about raising defence production in Europe to ensure sufficient munition supplies for Ukraine, Błaszczak said Stoltenberg's words were a form of "necessary" pressure on the Nato allies. "This pressure is necessary and should be received positively as a strong encouragement to do this," he said.
Błaszczak reiterated Poland's intentions to continue supporting Ukraine, and also announced further modernisation plans in the Polish armed forces.
Asked if the EU countries were considering joint arms purchases, Błaszczak said this was practiced among the Nato members, but "so far the results have not been satisfying."
Błaszczak also informed about Norway having joined the Nato Ukraine-supporting coalition, and said the country has declared to give Ukraine eight Leopard tanks, four armoured transporters and munition.
Błaszczak said talks on Leopard supplies for Ukraine were also underway with Finland.