The Best Laid Plans…

According to, a Spanish language security and defense news website, the Spanish Ministry of Defense was looking at the possible donation of twenty M113 armored personnel carriers (APC) and ten German-made Leopard 2A4 battle tanks to the Ukrainian military. These vehicles were to be taken from Spain’s defense inventory and sent to defend Ukraine against their Russian invaders. The donation would be in response to Kyiv’s multiple requests for more of these types of vehicles in their ongoing war.

Until now, Spain has only been willing to send defensive assistance. However, Infodefensa reported that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ordered the return of 30 vehicles loaded with over 200 tons of ammunition in July. Unfortunately, the ammo didn’t make it past the Polish port of Gdynia before it was recalled home. Not surprisingly, this greatly angered Ukrainian officials who were expecting to receive even more offensive aid of that type in the future.

A Spanish M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) is shown here at the San Gregorio Training Center in Zaragoza, Spain. Image Credit: Cpl Jeraco Jenkins/US Marine Corps

Infodefensa tells us that the transfer had been proposed somewhat unusually. The armor was to be given to Ukraine, and after they took ownership, Kyiv was supposed to finance their replacement in Spain with money from Europe’s Fund for Peace. This would necessitate Ukrainian officials signing a contract to replace the old military equipment with new. Sources familiar with the proposal estimate the expense of that deal to run between five and fifteen million euros. It could have taken until the end of the year to work out the details of the agreement and deliver the goods. Ukraine would undoubtedly have benefited from a much more accelerated timeline.

According to our sources, see above, for this deal to go through, Spain would need approval from the United States and Germany due to planned modifications of the weapons systems. However, when this was being proposed in mid-July, the Spaniards did not feel this would be an issue.

Serhii Pohorelstev, the Ukrainian ambassador to Spain, had been instrumental in pushing the Spaniards to provide offensive military aid after he learned the Spanish Army had a sizable amount of armored vehicles in storage. After having a good look at those vehicles, many were determined to be unserviceable. In particular, the Leopard 2A4 tanks the Ukrainians were looking at were referred to as having a “different operational status.” That’s a translation from Spanish, but I’d take that to mean “not currently in good working order.”  Some had been sitting for a decade with minimal maintenance.

As noted above, the US and Germany would have to give their thumbs up to the deal before the armor was shipped. German media giant Der Spiegel pointed out that if Berlin agreed to the deal, it would be the first time a NATO member sent battle tanks to Ukraine. They also went on to report that the Spaniards had a change of heart and denied wanting to send the aging armor to Ukraine. They went so far as to say that Madrid has apologized to Berlin for the excitement.

But many feel that Germany also had a hand in blocking the transfer of the tanks. According to Der Spiegel, “The Scholz government warned Spain that it would constitute a departure from an alleged informal decision by the West not to provide Western tanks to Ukraine.” 

Blame Game

So, blame it on whom you may, but it seems both nations had a hand in putting the brakes on the transaction. As reported this week in European Pravda, Margarita Robles, Spain’s Minister of Defense, said they cannot send the German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine at this time because they are in an “absolutely deplorable state.”