Defence minister won’t say whether Canada is willing to send battle tanks to Ukraine

Defence Minister Anita Anand says she has “no news to share” on whether Canada is willing to send some of its battle tanks to Ukraine — should Germany greenlight the export — following a meeting of 50 allied defence leaders this week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly issued pleas for tanks, although members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group failed to come to an agreement on what to send after meetings at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany this week.

Canada has 82 German-made Leopard 2 tanks, in various states of serviceability, but it needs permission from Germany to send them to Ukraine, consent it has yet to receive.

Anand told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Sunday, Canada is committed to sending what it can in military aid to Ukraine, but when pressed, she wouldn’t say definitively whether Canada would send the battle tanks Ukraine is requesting if Germany signs off on it.

“I have no news to share today on this,” Anand said.

“We’re taking this and our aid to Ukraine step by step,” she said, adding the federal government is “engaging industry” in Canada and “examining all options.”

“That’s why we were able to purchase the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) from the United States,” she said. “Because wherever we can, we are looking to ensure that we are doing our very best for Ukraine, and the 1.4 million Ukrainians that are here in Canada.”

Anand said Ukraine’s allies are “all putting on the table the aid we can provide,” listing a range of different capabilities. For example, Anand said, she recently announced Canada will purchase the U.S.-made $406-million NASAMS for Ukraine, in addition to sending 200 more armoured vehicles.

But when it comes to tanks, something Ukraine has listed as a priority, Anand said members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group are working together to provide what they can.

Former CIA director and retired U.S. Gen. David Petraeus said he was “a bit, but not entirely” surprised the allies did not reach a decision about tanks following their meeting Friday. But, he added, he anticipates a decision will come down soon, possibly in just a few days.

“The battle lines have been quite static,” he told Kapelos, also in a CTV’s Question Period interview airing Sunday. “If anything, Russia has had incremental, very costly incremental gains in recent months.”

“Both countries are poised for offensives in the spring,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to ensure that Ukraine is successful in their counter offensive this spring and can liberate more of the country as they did last fall.”

Petraeus added with the exception of failing to come to a decision around tanks, Friday’s meeting of defence leaders showed a “staggering additional commitment and staggering additional unity.”

Anand said the group of defence leaders are set to meet again in Brussels next month.

CTV News