Following the Czech Republic’s donation of 56 Pbv-501 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine with the approval of Germany, Slovenia is now stepping up to the plate and donating its own set of tanks to Ukraine. This is to help the country defend its territory against the Russian advance in Donbas. It is rumored that Slovenia’s Yugoslav-made M-84 tanks (an upgraded version of the T-72) would be sent to Ukraine.
According to reports, Slovenian Defense Minister Matej Tonin discussed the donation with German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht through a video call last Wednesday. The deal reportedly stated that Slovenia would send 30 to 40 units of M-84s to Ukraine, and Germany would give Slovenia an undisclosed number of German-made tanks and Marder and Fuchs APCs in return. Slovenia also asked Germany for more additional weapons, such as the Leopard 2 tanks and the Puma and Boxer APCs.
Slovenia initially did not want to comment on the supposed deal but later acknowledged the agreement. It confirmed that the two defense ministers had talked and agreed upon a deal to send Ukraine the necessary tanks they needed to repel the Russian forces.
“They discussed how allied countries can help Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression, and from this aspect, different ways in which Slovenia and Germany can jointly help Ukraine,” said the Slovenian Defense Ministry.
“The point is to deliver weapons as quickly as possible now,” Lambrecht said on television, adding that the tanks from Slovenia would reach Ukraine in a few days.
This move from the Slovenians and the Germans came as a surprise, especially for the German side, as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was hesitant to provide heavy weapons to Ukraine. However, Germany did find a loophole as they would be delivering weapons to Slovenia and not Ukraine, which is technically true. Scholz had been under fire from NATO because of his decision not to provide heavy weaponry.
During the early onset of the war, Germany had sent Kyiv with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger SAMs. It also put a halt to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as a consequence of Russia invading Ukraine. However, the military aid stopped at that. Heavy weaponry must be a red line for Germany. It had not approved Rheinmetall’s proposal to provide Ukraine with 50 Leopard 1 tanks, which was earlier announced by Rheinmetall’s chief executive Armin Papperger.
SOFREP earlier reported that the German Chancellor was delaying his final decision regarding the Leopard 1 tanks despite growing support from German officials. Scholz said that he did not want to “rush ahead” and that he was still coordinating with the EU and NATO.
“I believe that this is precisely an issue where it would be a grave mistake for Germany to take a special role and a special path,” he explained.
However, he is not rushing ahead over anybody as other countries have already sent heavy weapons to Ukraine. The Czech Republic quietly sent Ukraine Soviet-era T-72 tanks early in April together with howitzers and the aforementioned Pbv-501 infantry fighting vehicles. The United Kingdom has also planned to send Ukraine some Mastiff armored vehicles, while Australia had also donated some 20 Bushmasters. Slovakia has also donated their S-300 air defense system and expressed interest in donating their very own MiG-29s to Ukraine.
The US alone has been the largest military supporter and donor to Ukraine, recently donating 155mm howitzers (Slovakia is also in talks to sell its Zuzana 2s to Ukrainians), Javelins, and Mi-17 helicopters, among other equipment, last April 14, which already totaled in the billions of dollars. President Biden had just approved another additional $800 million military package for Ukraine. If anything, Germany has been lagging in donating heavy weaponry to Ukraine.
It has been so laggard that Scholz drew the ire of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, stating that “the ambiguous position taken by Germany here is certainly not helpful.”
Free Democrats Defense Expert Alexander Müller criticized Scholz for not being clear with his line of messaging, stating that “the German public has a right to know whether we are supplying heavy weapons like our NATO partners are doing. To date, the German government’s line is still unclear.”
However, the bright side of the issue is that Ukraine is finally obtaining more tanks to fight off the Russians. An unnamed US defense official has claimed that the Ukrainian Armed Forces now have more tanks in Ukraine than the Russians.
Due to a large number of tanks now at Ukrainian’s disposal, reports state that the Ukrainian Army’s 3rd Tank Brigade, a reserve force, has joined the fight in Izyum. The 4th Tank Brigade has also been reported to be fighting with their fellow tankers from the 17th Tank Brigade in the areas near Kharkiv. The 5th Tank Brigade, which has three battalions using 30 T-72 tanks, has also been reported to be deployed to Odessa to prepare for a Russian campaign to take the port city.
They would be necessary to bolster Odessa’s defenses as intel reports have surfaced that Russia is also trying to create a land bridge to Transnistria, where they claim Russian-speaking populations are oppressed. The Russian Central Military District has explicitly stated that it wanted to seize the entirety of Ukraine’s southern region so that it could have a direct route to Moldova’s Transnistria region.
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria,” said Rustam Minnekayev, commander of the Russian Central Military District.