It was announced this week that Germany will seek to buy back eighteen Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) along with a dozen self-propelled howitzers from Switzerland to replenish its arsenals after it sent a number of similar vehicles to aid the Ukrainian military earlier this year.
Berlin had pledged to send an equal number of Leopard 2s and has sought to plug the gap with new tanks as soon as possible.
The Swiss government has backed the decommissioning of 25 of the MBTs and would take the next step in selling them back to Germany. That would in turn allow Western countries to send more military aid to Kyiv.
Leopard 2 Tank Buyback
Germany had first asked Switzerland in February to sell some of the tanks back to arms maker Rheinmetall, which would allow the company to, in turn, backfill gaps in the armaments of European Union and NATO members Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Berlin has not been alone in sending the advanced Leopard 2 – considered among the very best MBTs in service in the world today – to Ukraine. Poland, Portugal, Finland, and Sweden have also pledged to send a number of Leopard 2s to help Ukraine as Kyiv prepares for an anticipated counteroffensive that aims to drive back the Russian forces.
However, the aid to Ukraine has resulted in gaps in the respective arsenals of Europe.
As also reported, the issue has been one of a sensitive nature for Swiss authorities. Under the Alpine nation’s neutrality laws, as well as a separate arms embargo, Bern is prohibited from directly sending weapons to Ukraine.
However, this latest effort could skirt the issue – and allow some of the 134 Leopard 2s in service as well as an additional 96 in shortage to aid the efforts. There has been a pro-Ukraine shift in the public and political mood within Switzerland, and pressure has been put on the government to step up support, while there have even been calls to lift the arms embargo.
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine last year served as a wake-up call for Germany, which had seen its military spending shrink to alarmingly low levels. As a result, Berlin has now begun to modernize its military, and it is hardly alone.
Poland has increased its defense spending, and has begun to purchase tanks and other equipment from South Korea and the United States, while it was also reported that the Czech Ministry of Defence announces plans to upgrade its Leopard 2 MBTs. The investment “paves the way for the Army of the Czech Republic to acquire a top-of-the-line ground platform, which is also in use in a number of European armies and is compatible with other NATO armies,” the ministry said via a statement. “In addition, from the joint procedure with Germany, the Czech side promises a significant price reduction, shorter deliveries, and the provision of adequate logistical support.”
If Russia had hoped the war in Europe would tear NATO apart, it failed spectacularly. NATO is arming up and it could be ready to take on the Russian bear like never before.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.