Madrid wanted to donate 40 Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, but the offer is now being cleared. Did the federal government torpedo the delivery or are the old tanks just scrap?
On the Pentecost weekend, a report electrified the world: Spain was said to be ready to deliver 40 Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks to Ukraine – there was even talk of 54. There was a lot of excitement as this would have been the first time a full-fledged Western-made Main Battle Tank had been shipped to Ukraine. Allegedly, Berlin was not enthusiastic about the idea from the beginning, it was reported with reference to anonymous sources. Now the deal has finally been buried. The official reason from Spain is that the tanks are too dilapidated to be sent into battle. What’s more: Even without enemy action, they pose a danger to the crew.
Looking at the Spanish offer, it is striking that Madrid had no intention of giving up anything of value from the start. Active tanks from the Spanish army were out of the question, unlike Polish T-72s. For Madrid, the discarded Leos have only scrap value, maybe they were also used as parts donors. The tanks in question were stored by the army at a military base in Zaragoza back in 2008. In the meantime, they wanted to convert them into armored recovery vehicles, but the plan was abandoned. Years ago, Madrid wanted to get rid of them to Peru. When the Kiev deal was announced, the newspaper “El Periódico” ran the headline: “Peru didn’t even want the Leopard tanks that Spain could donate to Ukraine at a bargain price.” Not only have the tanks been out of action for 14 years, among them are the 20 Leopards of the Extremadura XI Brigade, which, as soon as they were delivered, were submerged by a mudslide in 1997.
Effort of zero euros
The financial sacrifice can therefore be set at “zero euros”. Madrid didn’t want to do the necessary work-up either – neither did Kyiv, by the way. The 15 million euros set aside for this should come from an aid package from the EU. The amount of almost 400,000 euros should only be enough for a comprehensive technical overhaul, but not for modernization or an increase in combat effectiveness. It was not clear who would bear the additional costs. That would be: spare parts, ammunition and training of the Ukrainian crews.
Theoretically, several reasons or a combination of them are conceivable for the failure:
1. Berlin has made it clear behind the scenes that it would not, or only very reluctantly, agree to the export. In order not to put the ally under pressure, Madrid came up with an excuse.2. There was a lack of money. Madrid were not willing to raise larger sums. The necessary funds could not be found anywhere else.3. The condition of the tanks was worse than initially expected and/or the refurbishment was more time-consuming and expensive than expected.4. The supposed agreement not to supply Western tanks actually exists and Spain is rowing back to the allied line.
But the most likely scenario is that Madrid are simply telling the truth and the tanks are junk. In the 1990s, Spain first leased Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany and then bought them for a small sum. They were the basis for modernizing the army. The main focus, however, was on the subsequent construction of a Spanish variant of the Leopard – the so-called Leopard 2 “ES”. The German types were then taken out of service 14 years ago. They are no longer listed under the weapon types on the Spanish Army side. Apparently, Ukraine was initially simply promised tanks without looking at them first. The old Leos were then inspected in mid-June. As a result, the scope shrank from 40 to just ten pieces. The rest couldn’t be saved. It is conceivable that they were cannibalized as part donors. And the other ten were “completely ailing,” Business Insider reported at the time, referring to Spanish government officials. The number has probably shrunk since then until the deal no longer makes sense.
Condition was known in Spain
It is also striking that Madrid did not come up with the idea of redeeming the original offer by offering active Leopard 2ES where the other batch was useless. The parlor bellizists on German talk shows will continue to believe in a Scholz conspiracy that prevented the delivery. But Spain is a democracy, if the old Leopard 2A4s are actually in good condition and cruising around a barracks happily and the junk story was just an excuse, it would leak out quickly because any of the government officials and soldiers involved wouldn’t keep quiet.