Berlin, Apr 26 (EFE).- Germany’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine – a major shift in policy for Berlin – has been welcomed as a “significant move” by United States defense secretary Lloyd Austin.
Speaking at a meeting of allied defense ministers to discuss the war in Ukraine and how best to support Kyiv’s resistance against Russia’s invasion, Austin praised Germany’s “major decision” to send 50 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine that was confirmed on Tuesday by German defense minister Christine Lambrecht.
“That’s precisely what Ukraine needs right now to secure its airspace from the ground,” Lambrecht said, adding that “Germany is ready and willing to (…) continue supporting Ukraine in this courageous and important fight for peace and freedom.”
“I am glad that a strong signal of security with Ukraine will come out of this meeting,” she said.
Germany has been criticized by Ukraine and much of the international community for its hesitation in sending military hardware to Kyiv and for not reducing its imports of Russian energy.
But on Tuesday Lambrecht pointed out that since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Germany had increased its military budget, created a special fund of 100 billion euros for defense spending and arms shipments, and confirmed the authorization of shipment of Gepard tanks.
“In the face of a brutal war of aggression we have said goodbye to a policy of restraint in terms of arms exports in war and conflict zones, first and foremost to help Ukraine. It was not easy but it was a decision supported by the majority of our population,” she said.
Austin, who convened the meeting at Ramstein US military base in southwestern Germany that was also attended by Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, praised the efforts of the international community in responding to Moscow’s aggression against its neighbor.
“What we’ve done together in record time has made a huge difference on the battlefield,” Austin said, adding that “countries all around the world have been stepping up to meet Ukraine’s urgent needs.”
“Ukraine clearly believes that it can win and so does everyone here,” he said.
Austin announced that Tuesday’s forum would be extended into a “monthly contact group” that will serve as “a vehicle for nations of goodwill to intensify our efforts and coordinate our assistance, and focus on winning today’s fight, and the struggles to come.”
The official also said that so far more than 30 allied countries, together with the US, have announced aid to Ukraine worth more than 5 billion dollars. EFE