Good evening. After days of increasing international pressure on Berlin, Germany has finally authorized the delivery of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine. Washington has also confirmed that it will send 31 Abrams tanks. But what now? Despite reversing tanks, the German Chancellor continues to insist that no fighter jets will be delivered.
Evening briefing: today’s most important headlines
Politics | Sir Keir Starmer claimed Prime Minister’s job is “too big” for Rishi Sunak today at PMQs, criticizing him for not sacking Nadhim Zahawi as Tory party chairman. The Labor leader said Sunak’s handling of the row “shows how hopelessly weak” he is. The prime minister said it would have been “politically expedient” to have somehow resolved the row over tax matters before PMQs, but said he believed in “quite a fair trial”. Meanwhile, No. 10 repeatedly declined to say whether Mr. Sunak has ever paid a tax fine, insisting that such matters are confidential.
The big story: how the leopards will be released
Barring any final twists in this particular act, it seems that Ukraine’s leaders will finally realize their dream of Western tanks. As a first step, Germany will supply 14 Leopards and, after weeks of sustained international pressure, allow European allies to export their German-made tanks into a Western coalition that supplies and maintains them. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has confirmed that the US will also provide 31 Abrams tanks.
On Wednesday morning, Norway, the Netherlands and Spain said they were ready to join Poland, Finland and Portugal in deploying Leopard IIs from their armies. Denmark and Sweden are also considering sending tanks. But can the Ukrainians use them? Tanks cannot occupy and hold enemy positions on their own, writes Dominic Nichols.
For that, battlefield commanders need other parts of the military orchestra to all coordinate. These include infantry, sappers and artillery to cover the flanks and depth targets. The entire performance also needs an air defense umbrella to prevent Russian jets and helicopters from intervening – find out what else it takes to successfully use the Leopards here.
For now, Ukrainian troops and civilians will have to rely on their ability to be adept at innovation on the battlefield. However, they will need to do even more work on a systemic industrial scale to meet this challenge.
Time will be an important factor. Getting tanks and other armored equipment into the country and even to the front line will likely be measured in weeks for the Leopards and Challengers, and perhaps months for the Abrams.
But that’s just the delivery service. Additional time and locations outside the country will be required to train the crews and maintainers. If you want to learn more about why the leopards are so important, this explainer piece has the answers to all your questions.
Scholz defends postponement
Despite making an apparent U-turn in sending the Leopards, Olaf Scholz insisted he was “right” to delay sending the tanks to Ukraine. The German chancellor said the goal was to donate two battalions — about 80 tanks — to Kiev in total, fulfilling a demand first made by Ukraine shortly after the Russian invasion.
In his speech to the German parliament, Scholz vowed never to change his cautious approach if it risked war with Russia. He had refused to give the go-ahead for the Leopards until Washington promised to send M1-Abrams tanks as well. The US promised at least 30 Abrams on Tuesday, breaking a deadlock that threatened to damage Germany’s standing with its allies.
‘Tanks, but not jets’
However, when announcing Germany’s decision to supply the tanks, Mr. Scholz insisted that no fighter jets will be delivered to Ukraine. He said Berlin wanted to prevent an escalation of the war so that it “does not become a war between Russia and NATO”.
However, Greg Bagwella retired air marshal and fighter pilot who served as air commander of the United Kingdom for four years argues that Ukraine needs F-16 jets to win the war.
He writes that the addition of the F-16 in significant numbers would not only protect the Ukrainian army and people on the ground now, but would also be the tip of the spear in keeping the ensuing peace – read his full piece here .
Comment and analysis
World news: Virginia Giuffre signs book deal
Prince Andrew’s accuser has reportedly signed a book deal with a publisher a year after settling a sexual assault lawsuit with the Duke of York. Virginia Giuffre, 39, has been working on a memoir about her abuse at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, the rights to which could sell for millions of dollars. Prince Andrew, 62, settled a civil suit with Ms Giuffre last year but he admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement. It is understood that part of the deal struck was a one-year gag clause preventing Ms Giuffre from publicly repeating the allegations against the Duke – that clause expires next month.
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Sports news: Fan wears ‘Z’ symbol at Australian Open
Pro-Russian protesters have targeted the Australian Open with a fan displaying the controversial ‘Z’ symbol at the Rod Laver Arena and flags depicting Vladimir Putin’s face paraded outside Melbourne Park. Simon Briggs reports that some of the supporters chanted “Serbia, Russia, Serbia, Russia” on the steps of Melbourne’s main show court, as an image of Putin’s face on a Russian flag was flown by a fan, following Novak Djokovic’s victory on the Russian Andrey Roelev.
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Business news: Amazon workers strike in Coventry
Amazon workers have staged their first official UK strike by leaving the online retail giant’s Coventry warehouse in protest at a 50p pay rise amid claims that staff are being “treated like robots”. About 300 Amazon workers were expected to put down tools and join picket lines. The strike began at midnight on Tuesday at Amazon’s center in Coventry. Matthew field writes that the GMB union called for a strike after members voted in December. The union is demanding a wage increase from £10 to £15 an hour.
Tonight starts now
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Three things for you
And finally…for tonight’s downtime
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