February 1, 2023

Analysis: Why sending Ukraine tanks represents a fierce new step by the West

4 min read


Even in chaos, the message ends up being one of unity.

After weeks of Poland and other NATO members openly pressuring Germany to allow the shipment of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, it finally appears that the US and some of its EU allies Will send armor. – a move that was unthinkable months ago. Frontline against Russia.

This is an important decision, in part because these – unlike air defense systems, or anti-tank missiles – are not defensive weapons. Like the artillery and rocket systems that preceded them, they are intended to hit Russian troops hard in a ground attack. But unlike these systems, they are unambiguous. Retaking Ukrainian territory. It’s new, and fierce, and it shows NATO as fearless.

The joint US and European decision to send tanks to Ukraine is not the show of dissident democracies it seems.

Amid weeks of controversy and rhetoric about Berlin’s reluctance to help Kyiv, few in Moscow would have heard anything different from the dissent: a West considering sending its most aggressive weapon to a state that is whom he considered incompetent to even seriously discuss NATO membership with a year ago.

Alliances of NATO’s size and varying histories have always had some disagreement over how to handle Europe’s largest land war since World War II.

Poland experienced Soviet occupation, with many of its citizens able to remember what that version of Russian imperialism felt like. Germany – under the Nazis – let its tanks loose for the last time in the continent’s worst bloodshed. Many senior figures in his larger Social Democratic Party (SPD) – home to German Chancellor Olaf Schulz – have remained dangerously close to the Kremlin. It would have been somewhat remarkable if these European powers had been on the same page about this fight from day one.

But the plan to send it to America is one The massively iconic 30 Abrams tank In Ukraine, two U.S. officials familiar with the talks have given Germany enough incentive to drop its objections to the Leopard. It provided the NATO umbrella for the initiative, even if it would take months, perhaps years, to bring the logistically complex American main battle tank to fruition.

Servicing and maintaining these tanks in the vast expanses of Ukraine will be a tough challenge. But Washington’s willingness to undertake the task reflects its commitment to the war and how it views the prospects for a wider victory in Ukraine.

This latest burst of Western aid says two things. First, these countries are not concerned about violating Russian “red lines.” It has long been believed that some elements of NATO aid to Ukraine risk provoking nuclear power too far.

Second, these NATO members are less concerned about being attacked by Russia itself in the near future: they are handing over weapons that they would urgently need in the event of such a conflict. Dutch decision to send all their Caesar artillery; Norway’s decision to export a large portion of its leopards; Both are witnesses to it. According to these NATO members, the decisive conflict with Russia will be in Ukraine with Ukraine. And that could suggest they believe Moscow won’t win.

Western inventories can be rebuilt or replenished, but this takes time – perhaps decades. And NATO members are pledging equipment at such a pace that the last announcement doesn’t materialize before the next announcement comes.

Barely a month ago, the US promised Ukraine Patriot missile defense systems, and they have yet to arrive. Now the M1 Abrams tank may be on the way. The practical effects of a spring offensive by either Russia or Ukraine may not be felt in time. But the message is clear long before that. Western aid appears to be endless, continuous and increasing.

And it will be felt within the walls of the Kremlin. The Russian military struggles to build a strategic plan around its ever-changing leadership, and to turn the brutal use of manpower as an endless and expendable resource into substantial gains.

For those around Russian President Vladimir Putin, NATO aid is indispensable and certainly weighs on how durable their support for Putin is. It’s not going away.

Yet a note of caution must be sounded. It is just as preposterous for the West to believe that Russia has no red lines left, as it is for them to succumb to the nuclear blackmail that has deterred so much of Russia’s aggression.

Moscow may appear relatively impotent at the moment, but the fortunes of this war have changed before and could change again.

Perhaps weeks of public debate over the aid hike are meant to show Moscow that the West is wary and respectful of the Kremlin’s ego.

But here we are, entering territory that was unimaginable a year ago, with NATO’s best attack technology soon in Ukraine’s hands, and Russia seemingly only able to bark its frustrations. .

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