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Germany is prepared to authorize Poland to send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on January 22, after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki lashed out at Berlin over its refusal to agree to allow NATO members to send the tanks unless the United States sent its Abrams battle tanks.

Germany faced mounting criticism and pressure from European countries over its opposition to sending the tanks to help Kyiv fight the Russian invasion.

“If we are asked the question, then we will not stand in the way,” Baerbock told LCI television after a Franco-German summit meeting in Paris. “We know how important these tanks are, and this is why we are discussing this now with our partners. We need to make sure people’s lives are saved and Ukraine’s territory liberated.”

Morawiecki told the PAP agency earlier that Germany’s position on sending the tanks was “unacceptable,” adding that innocent people were dying every day while Ukraine’s allies debated sending the tanks.

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Germany also faced pressure from the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which made a joint call to Germany on January 21, urging it to step up its leadership and send its main battle tanks to Ukraine.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius did not immediately confirm Baerbock’s statement but said that there would be a decision soon on tanks, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said all weapons deliveries to Ukraine so far had been taken place in close coordination with Western partners.

“We will do that in the future,” he said.

A top US lawmaker, meanwhile, said he supported sending even a symbolic number of M1 Abrams battle tanks to break the deadlock.

“Germany will not put one tank in…until we give them reassurances we are going to put our Abrams in,” US Representative Michael McCaul (Republican-Texas) said on CNN. “If we did that publicly, that would unleash so many Leopard tanks because there are 10 other nations that are looking for Germany to sign off on the tanks that they have given them.”

Mark Cancian, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed that the United States could donate a small number of M1 Abrams to unlock Germany’s approval for Leopards.

Under such a situation, Ukraine could potentially receive 100 to 150 Leopards from NATO allies over several months, he said, noting the number of Leopards produced was about 2,000.

Cancian told RFE/RL that the number of tank deliveries to Ukraine currently being discussed — 14 from the British and 15 from Poland — isn’t enough to have an important impact.

“Scale is important,” he said. “I think at 100, 150 [units], it starts having an important battlefield impact. It’s not going to be a game changer, but you’ll notice that their armed forces are more effective.”

McCaul, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Russia’s decision to appoint General Valery Gerasimov to take charge of the Ukraine campaign means that Russia is “going to start a major offensive on the eastern flank in the Donbas” and tanks can help stop that.

McCaul stressed that the United States would not have to send very many Abrams tanks.

“All we have to do is unleash what Germany and the 10 other countries in NATO have. NATO has to share the burden. NATO countries are sharing the burden,” he said.

He added that an agreement to send them would also mean the release of additional tactical missiles that can reach Crimea and “take out the Iranian drones.”

Asked whether providing Ukraine with battle tanks could cause an escalation in the war, McCaul brushed away his concerns, saying the United States and other Ukrainian allies had heard Russian warnings before.

The head of Russia’s State Duma earlier on January 22 said that promised delivery of additional weapons to Kyiv could elevate the war in Ukraine to a new level that could result in a “global catastrophe.”

Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on Telegram that “if Washington and NATO countries supply weapons that will be used to strike civilian cities and attempt to seize our territories…this will lead to retaliatory measures using more powerful weapons.”

The comments by the head of Russia’s lower house of parliament were broadly taken to mean nuclear weapons, and he has now joined other high-ranking Russian officials who have recently threatened a significant escalation of the unprovoked war the Kremlin launched against Ukraine 11 months ago.

WATCH: “There is deep cold, frozen earth, and fighting.” RFE/RL correspondent Maryan Kushnir sent this special report after spending time recently on the front line in Soledar. After he filed this material, Russian forces are claimed to have seized control of the town but this has not been independently confirmed.

The latest package of military equipment announced by the Ukraine Defense Contact Group includes air-defense systems, Humvees, ammunition for artillery, and missiles for the High-Mobility Advanced Rocket Systems (HIMARs).

The package is sufficient for Kyiv’s forces to make progress defending Ukrainian territory and take back territory occupied by Russia, the Pentagon spokesman US Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said after it was announced during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

McCaul said there was enough support from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to continue approving such military aid, and Cancian said this was “the most important” thing for Ukraine, along with the backing of NATO allies.

“Looking long term, that’s much more important than any particular item in the aid package. [Ukraine] cannot survive or win if the amount of aid goes down substantially or dries up,” he said.

He also dismissed the idea that Leopard deliveries would cross some lines for Moscow.

“This idea that Leopards are the thing that is just going to break the camel’s back — no, they’re not escalatory,” he said.

With reporting by CNN

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