Germany ‘flabbergasted’ at Poland’s accusation of broken promise on tanks

BERLIN — The German government has rejected claims by Polish President Andrzej Duda that it had gone back on its word to send tanks to replace those Poland had sent to Ukraine.

“The federal government is flabbergasted, that’s how I would put it,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said Wednesday when asked for a reaction during a press conference in Berlin.

On Tuesday, the Polish president accused Berlin of not delivering on its commitment to send new tanks to replace the vehicles Poland had sent to Ukraine to help the country defend itself in the war against Russia.

“They have not fulfilled this promise. And frankly, we are very disappointed about this,” Duda said, sparking media attention in Germany and beyond.

But Hebestreit pushed back Wednesday, arguing that the German government had been clear from the beginning that it was going to “have to see what we can deliver,” a disclaimer he implied Poland later seemed to have forgotten.

“There was a clear request from the Polish side to transfer state-of-the-art Leopard 2A7 main battle tanks to Poland, but the problem is that the Bundeswehr itself only has a small number — about 50 — of these tanks,” he said, adding that while “more are in the pipeline, they are not standing on a car yard or factory site anywhere; they have to be manufactured.”

Hebestreit said that these circumstances had been clearly communicated to Warsaw.

“Last week, there were media reports that there was criticism of allegedly failed [tank exchanges] and yesterday the Polish president repeated this again in front of a camera,” he said.

“We take note of that, but that doesn’t make it any more correct.”