Germany hands over Leopard 2 tanks to Czechia to support Ukraine

The government has handed over the first shipment of modern Leopard 2 battle tanks to Czechia as part of a swap deal for which Czechia will send soviet-era equipment to Kyiv.

Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February, Berlin vowed to support Ukraine on the military front, but while it has sent powerful air defence systems to the country, it decided to bet on a convoluted chain swap system for tanks.

Because modern equipment would require too much training in Ukraine and delivery from other states would be quicker, Germany asked countries to send them soviet-era tanks, in return for more modern equipment such as Leopard 2.

To honour the first part of the chain swap with Czechia, Germany handed over the first of a dozen Leopard 2 tanks that will replace the T-72 soviet-era tanks Czechia sent to Ukraine, in Olomouc on Wednesday. By the end of 2023, the Czechs are set to receive another 13 Leopard 2s and one recovery tank, Buffalo.

Germany, while it has chain swap agreements of a similar kind with Greece and Slovakia, has received harsh criticism for the sluggish process and for Ukraine reportedly receiving subpar equipment.

In the Germany-Greece-Ukraine swap, for example, Kyiv received 50-year-old BMP-1 tanks, which, unlike Germany’s more modern tanks, only offer little protection to their crew.

“A ring swap of Marder for BMP-1 has nothing to do with supporting Ukraine. This ring swap helps Greece and helps the SPD. Otherwise, it helps no one,” military expert and senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations Gustav Gressel, said in September.

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