Tuesday, 30 May, 2023

Germany seeks to buy mothballed Swiss Leopard 2 tanks

Germany seeks to buy mothballed Swiss Leopard 2 tanks

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BERLIN: The Swiss government said Friday that Germany wants to buy mothballed Leopard 2 battle tanks from Switzerland to replace tanks that Berlin and its Western allies are sending to Ukraine, reports AP.

The Swiss Defense Ministry said that Germany’s defense and economy ministers wrote on Feb 23 to Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd, setting out German manufacturer Rheinmetall’s interest in buying Leopard 2 tanks that the Swiss army doesn’t plan to put back into service.

They assured Amherd that the tanks, if bought, wouldn’t be sent to Ukraine and would be used by Germany or its NATO and European partners to fill the gaps in their own stocks created by their donations of tanks to Kyiv and to improve the availability of replacement parts.

That’s an issue because Switzerland has a long tradition of neutrality. Germany so far has been unable to persuade the Swiss to provide supplies from their stockpile of ammunition for Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns that Berlin provided to Ukraine.

The ministry, in an emailed response to a query after Swiss daily Blick reported on the request, didn’t specify how many tanks Germany would like to buy. Switzerland has 230 of the German-made Leopard 2 tanks, 96 of which aren’t in operation, according to German news agency dpa.

Amherd this week responded to the German government that any sale would require a decision by the Swiss parliament to declare the tanks officially removed from service, and that while there are discussions in parliament, no such decision has yet been made. Her ministry said that the army has determined that in principle it would be possible to do without a “limited number” of battle tanks.

Germany is providing 18 of its own military’s Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and they are expected to be delivered later this month. Together with tanks provided by Sweden and Portugal, they will make up a battalion. Poland and other countries also are providing Leopard 2 tanks.

Germany’s defense minister has pushed for the tanks to be replaced as quickly as possible.