January 30, 2023

Germany’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine is a major moment in the war. Here’s why it matters

7 min read


After weeks of geopolitical wrangling, a pivotal moment in the war in Ukraine has arrived: Germany has announced that it will provide Cheetah 2 tank To the troops of Kyiv

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz announced the move on Wednesday.Bowing to intensifying international pressure – led by the United States, Poland and a bloc of other European countries – called on Berlin to increase its military support and commit to sending the vehicles it wants.

The announcement is likely to be matched by the US. Washington indicated that it was finalizing plans to ship. About 30 Abrams tanks are headed to Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the talks.

And the arrival of Western tanks in the conflict has the potential to change the shape of the war. The shipment is a breakthrough in Western military support for Kyiv, signaling a heightened perception around the world of Ukraine’s ability to reclaim occupied territory.

Crucially, they could allow Ukraine to take the fight to Moscow’s forces and recapture more occupied land, rather than focusing primarily on responding to Russian attacks.

Here’s what you need to know about Wednesday’s developments and how they affect the battle.

Schulz told the German parliament on Wednesday that his government would send 14. Cheetah sent tanks to Ukraine, capping months of deliberations and days of tense negotiations with NATO partners.

“This is the result of intensive consultations with Germany’s closest European and international partners,” an official statement said.

The German military has 320 Leopard 2 tanks but would not say how many would be combat-ready, a defense ministry spokesman previously told CNN.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s chief of staff welcomed the news that Germany would send Leopard 2 battle tanks to his country, reiterating that they needed them “very much”.

“The first tank step has been taken. The next is the ‘tank alliance’. We need a lot of leopards,” Andrey Yermak said on Telegram.

Several European armies use the Leopard 2 tank.

The German government’s statement said the aim was to “rapidly assemble” two battalions with Leopard 2 tanks. Training of Ukrainian staff to begin soon in Germany. Apart from training, the package will also include logistics, ammunition and systems maintenance.”

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Leopard tanks could be operational in Ukraine in about three months.

A plan to add Abrams tanks would likely be more complicated. Not only do they need to cross the Atlantic Ocean first, but their systems are considered more complex.

“The Abrams tank is a very complex piece of equipment. It’s expensive. It’s hard to train on. It has a jet engine,” Colin Cahill, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for policy, told Reuters last week. “I don’t think so.” That we’re still there,” Cahill said as he gave the tanks to Ukraine, a sign of how quickly the US position has evolved over the past few days of negotiations.

The ability to quickly move Ukrainians into Leopards was always seen as an advantage of fielding this type of tank, over the more cumbersome Abrams.

The Abrams is also “quite heavy” compared to most iterations of the Cheetah, “so you need to give Ukraine additional engineering and maintenance equipment,” said Gustav C. Gressel, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). told CNN. .

Wednesday’s announcement means Ukraine will soon be in possession of a modern tank that will greatly boost its arsenal ahead of new ground combat expected in the spring.

Ukraine is bracing for a Russian offensive in the coming weeks, aimed at completing the capture of Luhansk and Donetsk regions – the primary target of President Vladimir Putin’s what he cheerfully calls his “special military operation”.

Ukraine’s most senior military officer, Gen. Valery Zlozny, said in December that Ukraine expected a Russian attack anytime between January and late March.

Previous military aid, such as the U.S. HIMARS rocket system, has been critical in helping Ukraine deter Russian advances and mount a series of successful countermeasures in recent months.

Kyiv will hope that Western tanks will have a similar effect on the slow, grinding ground war in eastern Ukraine.

The tanks represent the most powerful direct offensive weapon ever delivered to Ukraine, a heavily armed and armored system designed to meet the enemy’s head rather than shoot it from a distance. If used properly with the necessary training, they could allow Ukraine to retake territory against Russian forces that have had time to dig in defensive lines.

The US has begun taking delivery of new Soviet-era T-72 tanks, but modern Western tanks are a generation ahead in terms of their ability to hit enemy positions. Ukrainian officials say. Several hundred main battle tanks are needed. – not only to defend their current positions but to take the fight to the enemy in the coming months.

“Of course, we need large numbers of Western tanks. They are much better than the Soviet models and can help us advance,” Lt. Gen. Sirhi Naif told CNN.

Germany said it would send 14 tanks to Ukraine “as a first step” and aimed to hand them over to troops immediately.

Importantly, Berlin’s announcement will also likely encourage other European countries that own Leopards to re-export some of their vehicles. This would normally require German approval, and some countries were reluctant to send tanks unless a coalition of countries was formed to do so.

“I call on all new partners who have Leopard 2 tanks to join the alliance and provide as many of them as possible,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Koliba said. “They are free now.”

Many armies use Cheetahs. In total, around 2,000 Leopard 2 vehicles are spread across Europe, at various levels of readiness.

The high-tech vehicles will allow Ukrainian forces to compete with Russian troops.

And many of them had already expressed a desire to send some of their own to the Ukraine, while Germany refused to send them, while Poland sought to gain support on the continent.

“Germany will grant the relevant options to transfer Leopard 2 tanks from its stocks to Ukraine immediately,” Scholz’s government said on Wednesday.

Leopards aren’t the only modern tanks on the way to Ukraine. Germany’s decision on Wednesday joins a growing movement among NATO powers to arm Kyiv with vehicles.

The US plans will see around 30 Abrams tanks sent across the Atlantic. Earlier this year, the UK committed to 12 Challenger 2 tanks.

Germany’s decision came after weeks of Western pressure, ending a round of deliberations in Berlin that frustrated its allies and fueled frustration in Kyiv.

German officials wrapped up a NATO summit last Friday without a deal to send tanks. Instead, officials lobbied for a similar commitment from the United States before it was drafted. Berlin then said it would not stand in the way of other countries re-exporting its leopards, but remained tight-lipped on its position.

Sending tanks to Ukraine was once a red line for Western leaders, who have generally been willing to provide Kyiv with defensive weapons to repel the Russian threat but have been reluctant to introduce systems that Ukrainians could use. To put the forces on the front foot.

The concern early in the war in some quarters of NATO was that an overreach in military support would increase the risk of escalation of the conflict, and possibly lead to nuclear strikes.

Nearly a year into the war, however, that calculus has changed — thanks in no small part to Ukraine’s successful counterattacks in late 2022, and its ability to incorporate new and sophisticated Western weapons systems into its units. no.

Pistorius, the new defense minister, repeatedly called for more time this week in the face of international pressure, insisting that sending tanks would have pros and cons for Berlin.

But Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said on Wednesday that “of course, this diplomatic pressure is changing the German approach, not only in terms of these tanks.”

Russia reacted angrily to initial reports that Germany and the US would send tanks to Ukraine, just as it responded to Britain’s earlier decision to send tanks.

Kremlin officials have also sought to portray the deployment of tanks as an aggression against Russia, bolstering their false narrative that their so-called military operation is aimed at defending Russian interests rather than occupying Ukraine. It is necessary for

Russia’s ambassador to Germany, Sergei Nechaev, said in a statement Wednesday that Berlin’s decision was “extremely dangerous” and that it “takes the conflict to a new level of conflict.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Wednesday that the donation of American and European tanks to the Ukrainian war effort would “bring more suffering” to the country and “more tension on the continent.”

Peskov said that if US-made Abrams tanks were delivered to Ukraine, they would “burn up like the others” and their cost would be a burden to European taxpayers.

But NATO allies supported Germany’s move and have repeatedly resisted Russia’s pretext of war.

Right decision of NATO allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Along with the Challenger 2, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defense firepower,” British Prime Minister Rishi Shank wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Together, we are stepping up our efforts to ensure “We want Ukraine to win this war and ensure a lasting peace.”

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