Poland answered Kyiv’s pleas for Western-made heavy armor with a plan to get battle tanks to Ukraine, and more could be on the way

Jake Epstein

Jan 11, 2023



Poland said on Wednesday that it plans to transfer Leopard tanks to Ukraine. President Duda noted the move would need to happen as part of an “international coalition.” The UK also signaled it may send tanks to Kyiv.

As NATO allies move to send armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine so it can fend off Russia’s assault, Poland and the UK have signaled they could send Kyiv a big item on its wishlist — tanks.

Speaking in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that “a company of Leopard tanks for Ukraine will be handed over” as part of an international coalition, adding that “such a decision is already in Poland.”

Duda told reporters at a press conference that transferring the German-made battle tanks will require working through a formal process and procedures as part of a larger “international coalition.” He noted that Poland wants to provide a first tank package to Ukraine, which he hopes will be supplemented by additional deliveries from international partners, according to Ukrainian state-run news agency Ukrinform.

In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has instructed the country’s defense chief Ben Wallace to “work with partners” in the coming weeks to “go even further, and faster, on our support to Ukraine, including the provision of tanks,” a government spokesperson told Insider. “We are accelerating our support to Ukraine with the kind of next-generation military technology that will win this war. It is clear that battle tanks could provide a game changing capability to the Ukrainians,” the spokesperson said, adding that Sunak told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week that “the UK will provide whatever we can.”

According to the Financial Times, the UK is readying to send its Challenger 2 main battle tank. The UK has yet to confirm this though.

It was unclear exactly how many Leopard tanks Poland wants to send to Kyiv, though Duda indicated it would be a company, which in Poland is 14 tanks. It also remains to be seen how Berlin will respond to Poland’s plans. The respective defense ministries of Germany and Poland did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

NATO allies France and Poland have pushed for Germany to send its formidable Leopard tanks to Ukraine, hoping that doing so would open the door for other countries to do the same, POLITICO reported earlier this week. Finland, one of a number of countries with Leopard tanks in its arsenal and an aspiring NATO member, has indicated it plans to wait for a decision from Berlin or to see if other countries moved to transfer Leopards before it takes such a step.

Moves by Poland and the UK shift pressure to send main battle tanks to Ukraine onto Germany and other countries. A US official, however, told POLITICO that Washington has no immediate plans to provide Ukraine with Abrams tanks, which Kyiv has sought.

Though there may still be obstacles to transferring Leopard tanks to Kyiv, Duda’s announcement was celebrated by Ukraine, which has long sought the weapons to help it fend off Russia’s continued assault. The Leopard-2, originally designed as a main battle tank in the 1970s, is equipped with a powerful 120 mm cannon, among other armaments.

The decision by Poland and considerations in the UK come amid a massive push by Western countries and NATO allies to send more heavy armor to Ukraine.

As recently as last week, the US, Germany, and France said they planned to send Western-made armored vehicles to Ukraine for the first time since Russia’s large-scale invasion — giving Kyiv a significant firepower boost and increasing its ground combat capabilities.

In particular, the US will provide Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, while the Germans and French will send Marder fighting vehicles and AMX-10 RC vehicles.

Heavy armor could facilitate potential breakthroughs as the devastating war in Ukraine has once again become a grinding and slow-moving campaign, with fighting currently heavily concentrated around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. US officials have described combat in that area as “really severe and savage.”