Lithuania will purchase Leopard 2 tanks from Germany

Lithuania, a NATO member with Russia on its doorstep, is acquiring tanks for the first time in its history.

The move was prompted by seeing how important tank warfare has been to Ukraine’s efforts to hold back Russia’s invasion, a defense official told Business Insider.

Lithuania’s State Defense Council agreed last month to buy Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, part of a broader move to beef up its military.

Vaidotas Urbelis, the policy director of Lithuania’s defense ministry, told BI the purchase was driven by watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“One of the things that Russia’s war in Ukraine has highlighted is the strategic significance of tanks in reclaiming seized territory,” he said. “Tanks play a vital role in combined arms maneuvers, enabling mobile operations alongside infantry.”

Like many other nations, Lithuania says it needs to be ready in case of a Russian attack, an eventuality Urbelis called the “worst-case scenario.”

“In the face of threat from Russia, possessing robust tank capabilities becomes imperative,” he said.

“Western tanks surpass the Russian ones with superior armor, precise weaponry, and advanced guidance systems. “

“Having such technological edge empowers a diverse range of tank operations, even in challenging conditions.”

Urbelis said that after Russia’s invasion, “our defense budget increased substantially. Before that, we were not able to even think about tanks.”

It’s the first time the country has acquired tanks since its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1990.

“We don’t have tanks yet. It’s going from zero,” Urbelis said.

He said Lithuania was still in the “early phases of negotiation” and had not yet arrived at a price for the tanks.

It is unclear how many tanks it will buy, but its chief of defense said last year that 54 would be a good target.

Lithuania wants its new tank unit to be combat-ready by 2030.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Lithuania, like many European countries, to hike defense spending and strike more defense agreements with allies.

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