U.S., Germany head for showdown over tanks for Ukraine

Ukraine pleaded with the West to finally send it heavy tanks. 

It comes as the U.S. and German Defense Chiefs headed for a showdown over weapons that Kyiv says could determine the fate of the ongoing war with Russia. 

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in Germany on Thursday to meet new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius only a few hours after he was sworn into office. 

On Friday both ministers will convene dozens of allies to pledge weapons for Ukraine at a meeting at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base. The meeting is expected to be a chance to provide the weaponry needed to shift the war’s momentum this year. 

Billions of dollars of military aid is expected. 

Part of the meeting will determine whether heavy tanks are included in the weaponry, which Kyiv says is needed to fight off Russian assaults and recapture occupied land. 

A big pledge of tanks requires resolving a stand-off between Washington and Berlin, which has so far blocked allies from sending its Leopard 2 tanks, workhorse of militaries across Europe.

Washington and many Western allies say the Leopards are the only suitable option available in big enough numbers. Germany made thousands of the Leopards during the Cold War and exported to its allies. 

Berlin may lift its objections if Washington sends its own Abrams tanks. 

It comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a minute of silence at the World Economic Forum meeting Davos to honor the victims of a deadly helicopter crash. 

At least 14 people were killed, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi and other officials, when the helicopter crashed near a kindergarten outside Kyiv. 

An investigation is underway, but there didn’t appear to be any initial indication that the helicopter was shot down. Zelenskyy called the incident a “terrible tragedy”, and renewed his calls for support from Western leaders at Davos.

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