… but like other European countries ‘dithers’ over Leopard 2 tanks
Portugal will send 14 more M113 armoured vehicles and eight large-capacity electrical generators to Ukraine, raising “to 532 tonnes the total of lethal and non-lethal military equipment” supplied to the country, defence minister Helena Carreiras announced yesterday.
Lusa news agency concentrated on the plus points of the statement coming out of the defence ministry, completely ignoring the elephant in the room: the Leopard 2 tanks which Ukraine is crying out for.
Portugal has 37 of these tanks – but no country yet seems to be committing to sending any of them until Germany (where the tanks are manufactured) gives this permission.
As reports explain: “Experts estimate there are around 2,000 Leopard tanks in use by 13 countries across Europe, and they are increasingly being seen as vital to Ukraine’s war effort as the conflict grinds into a second year. But Berlin must grant these nations approval to re-export German-made tanks to Ukraine, and it has so far resisted calls to do so”.
The pressure on Germany to change its stance is immense, and as every available lever is being pulled, Portugal’s defence ministry has shown “willingness to identify, in a coordinated way with its partners, ways of supporting Ukraine with this capability.”
Reading between the lines, Portugal is not standing in the way of sending some of its Leopard tanks: it is waiting for Germany.
The statement released by the defence ministry yesterday “reaffirmed Portugal’s commitment to the defence of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine”.
According to the statement, the “ministry of national defence and the general staff of the armed forces” are “in constant contact with the Ukrainian authorities and analysing Kyiv’s requests”, committing Portugal to respond to those requests “to the extent of its capabilities and availabilities.
“Portugal is part of the new European Union mission of military assistance to Ukraine, which will provide training in areas such as the deactivation of explosive devices, combat medical assistance, nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological defence, and military instruction. The Portuguese trainers will be in Germany as of February,” the statement added
The ministry also said that “Portugal remains available to receive 40 Ukrainian military personnel wounded in combat at the armed forces hospital in Lisbon.
Nonetheless, no official statements can really make up for the fact that the West’s “indecision” over sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine means more people will die, on both sides, every day.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said: “Every day we make it more obvious that there is no alternative, that a decision about tanks must be made.”
But it is taking its time.