Illustration photo – German Leopard 2 tank.
Bern/Prague – The Czech Republic wants to buy from Switzerland an unspecified number of older Leopard 2 tanks that are currently stored in the Alpine country. According to AFP, Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd said this today. She gave no further details. Last week, Germany also applied for the purchase of preserved Leopard 2 tanks from the 1980s. The Czech Ministry of Defense stated in response to CTK's inquiry. that it was not about selling off the tanks, but would accept the Swiss offer of Leopard 2 tanks as an appreciation of Czech aid to Ukraine.
“We had a request from Germany and since then we have also received a request from the Czech Republic,” Amherdová told SRF public television.
“We have not discussed the sale of tanks with the Swiss side. However, if Switzerland would like to offer us its Leopard 2 tanks as an appreciation for our help to Ukraine, we will definitely not be against it,” David Jareš, director of the Department of Communications of the Ministry of Defense, told ČTK. Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) said at a briefing after a meeting with President Miloš Zeman that he would not comment on the information now.
Once Switzerland's defense needs are satisfied, “there will be a number of tanks that we will not need and that we can make available , if the parliament declares them decommissioned,” said the minister.
Switzerland has 230 Leopard 2 tanks, of which 134 are in service and 96 are decommissioned. However, they are not “out of service”. According to Swiss law, only decommissioned military equipment can be sold. Parliament decides whether the tanks will receive this status.
Germany said last week that it wanted to acquire an unspecified number of preserved Leopard 2 tanks from the 1980s from Switzerland. The relevant request was sent to the Ministry of Defense in Bern.
As Switzerland bans the transfer of military equipment to a country at war in the name of neutrality, Berlin has assured Switzerland that the tanks will not be re-exported to Ukraine, the ministry said. The same rule should also apply to the request of the Czech Republic. The sale of German-made tanks owned by Switzerland could allow everyone to increase aid to Ukraine, as Germany and other countries could use them to replace machines already delivered or promised to Kiev.
The Czech Republic is a significant supplier of arms to Ukraine, including Soviet-made tanks of the same type , as used by the Ukrainian army. Germany is to deliver a total of 14 Leopard 2A4 tanks and one recovery vehicle to the Czech Republic as a replacement for the Soviet-origin armaments that Prague sent to Russia-attacked Ukraine.
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the debate about arms supplies has been heated in Switzerland. The Alpine country, which is not part of the EU, has accepted all the sanctions imposed by Brussels against Moscow, but adamantly insists on its military neutrality. Although Kiev and its allies have urged the Swiss government to allow the re-export of arms and ammunition to Ukraine, it has so far dismissed requests from Germany, Spain and Denmark. Various initiatives to loosen these rules continue in parliament, but a decision is not expected for several months.