BERLIN (AP) — Germany wants to buy mothballed Leopard 2 main battle tanks from Switzerland to replace tanks that Berlin and its Western allies are sending to Ukraine, the Swiss government said Friday.
The Swiss defense ministry said German defense and economy ministers wrote a letter to Swiss defense minister Viola Amherd on Feb. 23, outlining that German manufacturer Rheinmetall is interested in buying Leopard 2 tanks that it Swiss Army does not intend to return to service.
They assured Amherd that the tanks, if purchased, would not be sent to Ukraine and used by Germany or its NATO and European partners to fill the gaps in their own supplies created by their donations of tanks to Kiev and to improve availability. of replacement parts.
That is a problem, because Switzerland has a long tradition of neutrality. Germany has so far failed to convince the Swiss to supply supplies from their cache of ammunition for Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns that Berlin supplied to Ukraine.
The ministry, in an email response to a question after the Swiss daily Blick reported on the request, did not specify how many tanks Germany would like to buy. Switzerland has 230 German-made Leopard 2 tanks, 96 of which are not in service, the German news agency dpa said.
Amherd this week responded to the German government that any sale requires a decision by the Swiss parliament to officially decommission the tanks, and that while there are discussions in parliament, no such decision has yet been made.
Her ministry said the military has determined it would be possible in principle to get by without a “limited number” of main battle tanks.
Germany is supplying Ukraine with 18 of its own Leopard 2 tanks, which are expected to be delivered later this month. Together with tanks from Sweden and Portugal they form a battalion. Poland and other countries also supply Leopard 2 tanks.
The German defense minister has urged that the tanks be replaced as soon as possible.