Germany aims to replace Leopards sent to Ukraine by buying back Swiss tanks

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Germany wants to buy mothballed Leopard 2 battle tanks from Switzerland to replace tanks that Berlin and its Western allies are sending to Ukraine, the Swiss government said on Friday.

The Swiss defence ministry said that Germany’s defence and economy ministers wrote on February 23 to Swiss defence minister Viola Amherd, setting out German manufacturer Rheinmetall’s interest in buying Leopard 2 tanks that the Swiss army does not plan to put back into service.

They assured Ms Amherd that the tanks, if bought, would not be sent to Ukraine and would be used by Germany or its Nato and European partners to fill the gaps in their own stocks created by their donations of tanks to Kyiv and to improve the availability of replacement parts.

That is an issue because Switzerland has a long tradition of neutrality.

The ministry, in an emailed response to a query after Swiss daily Blick reported on the request, did not specify how many tanks Germany would like to buy.

Switzerland has 230 of the German-made Leopard 2 tanks, 96 of which are not in operation, according to German news agency dpa.

Ms Amherd, this week, responded to the German government that any sale would require a decision by the Swiss parliament to declare the tanks officially removed from service, and that while there are discussions in parliament, no such decision has yet been made.

Her ministry said that the army has determined that in principle it would be possible to do without a “limited number” of battle tanks.

Germany is providing 18 of its own military’s Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and they are expected to be delivered later this month.

Together with tanks provided by Sweden and Portugal, they will make up a battalion. Poland and other countries also are providing Leopard 2 tanks.

Germany’s defence minister has pushed for the tanks to be replaced as quickly as possible.

German defense ministry spokesman Arne Collatz confirmed Germany’s interest in the tanks from Switzerland but said there had been no discussion yet of how many tanks might be involved.

Asked whether similar queries were made to other countries, Mr Collatz replied that “we are in constant contact and good talks with many partners.” He did not elaborate.

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