The Allies were reluctant to send tanks to Ukraine

Posted Jan 19, 2023, 5:05 p.mUpdated on 19 Jan 2023 at 19.01

Give tanks or not, that is the question.

Speculation was rife in Washington, Kyiv, London, Paris and Berlin on Thursday, ahead of a landmark meeting of defense ministers from Ukraine’s 50 allies at the US military base in Ramstein, Germany. .

The most likely scenario is no longer the delivery of multiple battle tanks, far more powerful than either the French AMX10 RC or the American Bradley promised earlier in the month. Nothing indicated, in fact, this Thursday, the prospect of resolving the tussle around the German Leopard II tanks: the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, does not appear to be ready to authorize their delivery to kyiv, as he does not want to disarm his troops (which has 328 units) or , above all, that his country is at the forefront of supplying 60 ton Western tanks capable of taking on fortified positions. Weapons without the same size as those sent by the allies so far.

The must-have Leopard II

The Leopard IIs are relatively important in the arsenal entrusted to Kyiv because of their strength, but also their numbers (almost 2,000 copies registered among the Allies) and their NATO-compatible ammunition, unlike the British tank.

Wishing not to provoke Moscow too much, Chancellor Scholz may not even give the green light now for re-export to kyiv by Leopard II customers from Spain, Poland, Denmark or Finland. “Regardless of the country of origin, the Leopards on the battlefield will be identified by the Russians as German tanks and will therefore make Germany an enemy state”, warned Eric André Martin of the French Institute of International Relations . The warning, which infuriated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, stated “there are times when one should not doubt or compare oneself”. Chancellor Scholz hid behind the need to “play as a team”, and it was understood he would only deliver the Leopard II if the United States donated their own Abrams M1 tank. This was not part of Washington’s plan.

US Undersecretary of Defense Colin Kahl stressed on Wednesday that the deployment of the Abrams tanks would be a formidable challenge in terms of logistics, repair and crew training, due to “highly advanced and very fuel-intensive equipment” (1000 liters per day). Moreover, the capture of one of these tanks rich in technological secrets by Moscow would be disastrous.

Poland, which has signaled it is ready to go into effect by handing over its 14 Leopards to Kyiv without the Chancellor’s green light, pleaded for its part to send a combined contingent of one hundred battle tanks from the Allies, including the pledged 14 British Challengers, for now the only ones enlisted. Lithuania said late on Thursday that “several countries” would announce on Friday the supply of Leopard tanks to kyiv… London will also provide 600 Brimstone air-to-ground missiles and plans to deliver several formidable A64 Apache attack helicopters.

Paris has not said it is ready at this stage to deliver Leclerc tanks, the fleet of which has no more than a hundred copies available. Sweden, for its part, announced the delivery of 50 CV90 armored fighting vehicles within two months. The German newspaper Handelsblatt believed on Thursday that German industry could deliver to Kyiv one hundred Leopard A4s, older, refurbished designs, or even Leopard IIs “this year”. From reliable sources, the companies KMW and RheinMétall have identified 120 Leopard II tanks outside Germany that can be returned to combat condition after six months.

Hover the bomb on the menu

The $2.5 billion US aid plan due to be finalized by Friday would instead include 100 Stryker assault tanks, according to the Politico website. Strykers can carry command and fire anti-tank guided missiles.

Above all, some sources indicate that Washington will send GLSDB missiles (small diameter ground-launched bombs). These are inexpensive bullets (40,000 dollars each) that are fired in a bell and then spread tiny wings to guide themselves with an accuracy of less than one meter towards a target 150 km away. It was almost double the range of the HIMARS delivered last spring which made a decisive contribution to Ukraine’s success.

Crimea is visible

Without giving Ukraine the ability to strike deep into Russian territory, which the Kremlin said Thursday would constitute a “dangerous escalation”, the GLSDB would allow it to destroy bases, ammunition depots and troop concentrations in practically all of Ukraine’s territory under Moscow’s control, including in Crimea. Unlike heavy tanks, which were needed to attack fortified positions, these GLSDBs would destroy the rear of the Russian front and therefore prevent it from going on the offensive, or even preparing the ground for a Ukrainian offensive once it had sufficient supplies of combat armor, within months. .

Incidentally, the fact that the GLSDB will henceforth put the entire Crimean area within firing range is indicative of an important evolution in allied doctrine. While many in the West reckon that restoration of this territory, which was annexed in 2014 by Moscow, would cross Kremlin boundaries, the US State Department underlined on Wednesday that Crimea belongs to Ukraine. What was also stated on the same day Serbian president, Aleksander Vucic, is not yet considered an ally of the Kremlin.

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