Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has again urged allies to send Ukraine tanks, at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 18. However, Germany refused to bite, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz failing to make a decision on the allocation of Leopard 2 tanks.
Zelenskiy began his speech by asking participants to observe a one-minute silence in memory of the 14 people killed in a helicopter crash outside Kyiv that morning. He warned that Western nations needed to speed up decision making processes, a dig at Berlin which is hesitating over sending Leopard 2 main battle tanks.
“Tragedies are outpacing life. Tyranny is outpacing democracy,” he said, the Irish Times reported. “The world must not hesitate today, or ever.”
He noted that prompt action has already saved millions of lives around the world, referencing the Black Sea Grain initiative that was signed in July and which allowed the export of agricultural products from Ukraine’s ports. He added that the world must “outpace Russia’s next military move” and that the West needs to supply tanks to “outpace the next deployment of Russia’s tanks,” the Guardian reported.
However, despite Zelenskiy’s impassioned rhetoric, Scholz remained steadfast over his concerns that tanks will lead to further escalation. “Ukraine can rely on our support, but we want to avoid this becoming a war between Russia and Nato,” he said.
He mentioned that Berlin changed its political strategies early in the war and is now providing significant humanitarian and military aid. Nevertheless, main battle tanks are what Kyiv desperately needs in order to defeat Russia on the battlefield and Germany has faced pressure from both individual EU states as well as the European Parliament.
The lack of decision has frustrated Ukraine’s supporters, particularly Poland, who offered to send its own German-manufactured Leopard tanks last week but needs authorisation from Berlin to do so. Nevertheless, Germany is expected to make a decision before the next Ramstein defence meeting on January 20, unnamed officials told Bloomberg last week. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, told the elite forum that he had “very good and positive signals” ahead of the meeting, Radio Free Europe reported.
Zelenskiy emphasised that Ukraine remains “strong and united” despite the difficult and intense fighting around Bakhmut and Soledar. He reminded that it was not Ukraine that started the war, but it will end it by “removing Russian forces from Ukrainian land.”
He noted that whilst Russia is “exporting terror” Ukraine has offered a ten-point-peace plan that would end the war. He thanked the EU for their support including the financial backing to help cover the budget deficit this year.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also spoke at the conference and in a bizarre speech compared the West’s support for Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution” to eradicate Europe’s Jewish populations. He claimed the US had assembled a cohort of European countries to tackle the “Russian question”.
"Just as Hitler wanted a 'final solution' to the Jewish question, now, if you read Western politicians (... ) they clearly say Russia must suffer a strategic defeat,” he said, Reuters reported.