Reinforcing Polish Defense: A Key Element for any Way Ahead for German Defense

By Robbin Laird

As I will argue in my next piece in the series, projecting power forward for the perimeter defense of Germany is a key part of any credible renovation of German defense.  It is not simply contributing some units to forward defense exercises by NATO, it is an ability to deliver significant and relevant sustainable force to forward defense.

A recent article in the Polish website Defence24 highlighted a recent German proposal which highlights German rethinking on forward defense.

According to Jakub Palowski in an article published on August 1, 2022, German MoD is proposing to plus up Polish tank capabilities either by a joint acquisition of new tanks or a transfer of older tanks to Poland.

Christine Lambrecht, head of the German MoD, sent a letter to her Polish counterpart, Mariusz Błaszczak, on delivery of equipment taking place to fill in the gaps left, after military aid was provided to Ukraine by Warsaw.

The letter written by Christine Lambrecht, mentioned by “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”, was sent in reaction to the public declarations made by Poland. Warsaw has not been satisfied with German proposals regarding the process of filling in the inventory gaps, following Poland’s decision to deliver more than 200 T-72 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

“The documents state that the Germans have reviewed all paths possible when it comes to supporting Poland, and there’s no option to deliver equipment coming out of the Bundeswehr’s stockpile, given the fact that the German Armed Forces are also struggling with the gaps in the inventory it has. The Germans have however offered Poland an opportunity to jointly procure a modern variant of the Leopard 2 MBT. This would happen later than any transfer of second-hand MBTs, with Poland having a right to receive the new variant of tanks first.”

The author goes on to note that such an offer clearly could not provide a quick response to Polish needs. I would add that it does show changing German MoD thinking however.

The author then goes on to note the following which reflects upon the critical inventory state of the Bundeswehr limiting options when dealing with support to Ukraine or NATO allies in the current war:

“The “SZ” reports that Poland was offered a transfer of 100 Leopard 1A5 MBTs, or Marder IFVs. The former are legacy MBTs with 105 mm guns, coming out of the industrial stockpile. The Bundeswehr got rid of its Leopard 1 MBTs back in 2003. The first MBTs of the type entered service back in the 1960s. Any introduction of those into the Polish Army, along with a new caliber of tank munitions, would be completely irrational. Interestingly, Berlin is not willing to hand off the very same MBTs to Ukraine, being worried about the potential escalation of the war in Ukraine.

“The report published by “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” indirectly confirms why Slovak and Slovenian equipment exchange initiatives were unsuccessful, even though Germany and the aforelisted states are closer, politically (all are using Euro as their currency). The Slovak MoD supposedly was offered 15 German MBTs, for 30 T-72 transferred to Ukraine. Possibly, the obstacle here is not the lack of will, but an actual lack of main battle tanks available, in a proper condition.

“The offer involving a transfer of the Marder IFV seems to be a bit more interesting though. The Germans have already made arrangements with Greece, agreeing to exchange some of those for ex-East-German BMP-1 vehicles, that would then be handed off to Ukraine. Maybe Marder vehicles could be an interesting proposal for the neighbours of Poland, including the Czech Republic or Slovakia, waiting for newly procured CV-90s. If Marder is used in a role of a transitional vehicle, not only could Ukraine receive the BMP-1, but also the far more modern BMP-2 (BVP-2) platform, also operated by the aforesaid nations.”

Featured photo: German Leopard 1A5 MBT.
Credit: Rainer Lippert/Wikimedia Commons