Despite supporting the gift of Leopard tanks to Kiev, Germany's vice chancellor thinks planes are a step too far
German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck has warned against supplying fighter jets to Ukraine, arguing the step would "probably" be crossing a line and risk drawing Berlin into direct conflict with Moscow.
"There is a difference between battle tanks and fighter jets," he told a TV host on Tuesday.
Habeck was a strong proponent of sending German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev, and saw his wishes prevail over those of former Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, who was replaced with Habeck's own pick, Boris Pistorius. Germany last week announced it will provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev. Poland will supply another 14, Spain will offer between four and six, and Norway will contribute up to eight and some parts.
However, even including an American pledge of 31 M1 Abrams tanks, current allocations barely meet a third of Ukraine's demands for 300 new tanks, and the machines are not expected to be delivered until the autumn. The Russian ambassador to Germany, Sergey Nechaev, condemned Berlin's gift of the Leopards as "highly dangerous" and warned it "takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation."
Despite Berlin's hesitance to supply Kiev with fighter jets, an adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed on Wednesday that talks were already underway to provide their military with "attack aircraft." Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged his erstwhile colleagues to fork over their fighter planes "as fast as possible," even as the current British leadership joined Habeck and US President Joe Biden in saying no to their ally's latest demand.