Mr Lecornu: President Macron has requested “instructions for the transfer of Leclerc tanks” to kyiv
On January 19, speaking via video conference on the sidelines of the Davos Forum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again urged his Western partners to send more weapons to his troops… not only to defeat Russia’s attack on his country… but also to recover Crimea , it was annexed in 2014 by Moscow.
“Crimea is our land, our territory, our sea and our mountains. Give us your weapons and we will get our land back,” said Mr. Zelenski. And while this, the day before, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, had assured that the Allies would provide Ukraine with “heavier and more modern” weapons to help it defend itself against Russia.
Having acquired advanced artillery systems, such as the American HIMARS M142, the German PzH2000 or the French CAESar, as well as the Patriot air defense battery [et peut-être Mamba], Ukraine now insists on having tanks of Western design. And France has promised to deliver the AMX-10RC within two months… while the UK is due to deliver 14 Challenger 2s, with around thirty AS-90 self-propelled howitzers and other armored vehicles.
Only, and beyond the logistical issues [l’AMX-10 RC et le Challenger 2 n’utilisent pas de munitions aux normes de l’Otan] and maintenance in operational condition [MCO]this remains insufficient… However, Poland is ready to deliver 14 Leopard 2 [de fabrication allemande] to Ukraine. As well as Finland, even Denmark. Except that, for this, authorization from Berlin is required. However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is less likely to give it away… Like the rest, 43% are German, according to a poll by Deutsche Presse-Agentur [cela étant, 37% sont favorables à la livriaosn de Leopard 2 et 16% sont indécis].
According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited German officials, Scholz could allow the delivery of the Leopard 2 to Ukraine only on condition that the United States also delivers M1 Abrams tanks. However, for Washington, this is impossible.
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” said Pentagon number three Colin Kahl when asked about it. “The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. It is expensive, requires tough training […]. I believe the consumption of kerosene is 11 liters per km,” he explained. “This is not the easiest system to defend,” he added, without excluding the evolution of America’s position.
Meanwhile, and after fifty infantry fighting vehicles [VCI] Bradley pledged in Kyiv on January 5 [en plus des quarante Marder allemands dont la livraison a été annoncée le même jour, ndlr], the United States had to issue a new tranche of aid, amounting to 2.5 billion dollars. And on the list of equipment likely to be supplied to the Ukrainian army is one hundred Stryker armored personnel carriers.
If it’s hard to get the Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams for kyiv, how about the Leclerc tank? The idea of sending it to the Ukrainian army was put forward in a column published last September in the pages of the daily Le Monde by Pierre Haroche, an international security expert who graduated from the military’s School of Strategic Research Institute before landing at London’s Queen Mary University.
Since then, the French ambassador to Ukraine, Étienne de Poncins, has confirmed Kyiv’s interest in the Leclerc tank during a session at the National Assembly on 9 November. Then, more than a month later, during an official visit to Paris, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that Ukraine would be “very grateful” if France sent it …
In any case, the French executive is looking into the question. This is what Sébastien Lecornu, Minister of the Armed Forces, said during the last session of questions to the government in the Senate, on January 18, in response to Senator François Bonneau [Union centriste].
“France is strengthening its military aid by sending the AMX-10 RC light battle tank. We welcome this gesture, but it is unlikely to further delay the delivery of more efficient armor equipment – heavy tanks, missiles, surface-to-air launchers – to better protect civilians. […] Will you equip this delivery with Leclerc tanks and anti-missile systems? asked the MP.
According to the explanation provided by Mr. Lecornu, any possible transfer of arms to Ukraine is assessed according to three criteria. “Firstly, it responds to a defensive logic, to control escalation. Second, it doesn’t undermine our security and defense model […]. Third, the maintenance in operational condition of what has been delivered to Ukraine,” he said, before pointing out that the maintenance of the Leclerc “is a very sensitive matter.”
Therefore, continued Mr. Lecornu, “The President of the Republic asked the Government to provide a quick response, hence the delivery of the AMX-10 tank, praised by Ukraine”, and “he also wanted an inspection of the sale of Leclerc Tanks based on these three criteria”.
As a reminder, the Army will only have 200 Leclerc tanks brought up to XLR standard by 2030, out of 406 delivered from the 1990s. What’s more, the crew is way off the mark, when it comes to training hours, with only 54 hours per year whereas the goal set by LPM 2019-25 is 115 hours…