Some European countries have decided to send armored tanks to Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia

The collective reaction of the Western alliance towards Russia’s aggression in Ukraine received a boost this week as several European nations for the first time responded to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s persistent appeal to supply modern battle tanks to Kyiv. France and Poland have pledged to deliver tanks for the Ukrainian military to use in its efforts to protect itself from Russia. The UK and Finland are also contemplating similar actions.

While speaking alongside Zelensky in the Ukrainian city of Lviv on Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda expressed hope that tanks from various Western allies would “soon arrive through various routes to Ukraine and will be able to enhance the defense of Ukraine.”

These actions have increased pressure on Germany, which last week announced that it would transfer infantry fighting vehicles to Kyiv but has yet to commit to sending tanks. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has emphasized that any such plan would need to be fully coordinated with the entire Western alliance, including the United States.

Armored tanks

Western officials told reporters that the decision by some countries but not others to send more tanks was part of a comprehensive evaluation of what was happening on the ground in Ukraine. NATO allies have spent recent weeks discussing in detail which countries are best equipped to provide specific types of assistance, whether it be military equipment or money.

One senior Western diplomat suggested that more countries could increase their levels of military support in the coming weeks as the war enters a new phase, and a fresh Russian offensive could be just around the corner as the anniversary of the invasion approaches.

But Germany’s support is seen as crucial. Thirteen European countries, including Poland and Finland, possess modern German Leopard 2 tanks, which were introduced in 1979 and have been upgraded several times since, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

While any re-export of the tank by these nations would typically need approval from the German government, Berlin has suggested it would not block their transfer to Kyiv.

Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Thursday that Berlin would not stand in the way of other countries re-exporting Leopard tanks.

“Germany should not stand in the way of other countries taking decisions to support Ukraine, independent of which decisions Germany takes,” Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Thursday said on the sidelines of a Greens party meeting in Berlin.

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German deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said Friday that it had not received an official request from Poland or Finland.

“There is no question to which we would have to say no. But we’re saying right now that we are in a constant exchange about what is the right thing to do at this point in time and how we best support Ukraine,” Hoffmann told reporters.

Armored tanks

General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s most senior military commander, told the Economist in December that the military needed around 300 tanks to beat back the Russians. The European Council on Foreign Relations estimates that around 2,000 Leopard tanks are spread across Europe.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said on Thursday he was confident that the tanks promised from the European partners would be delivered “very, very fast” and that Ukrainian Armed Forces would “master” the use of the tanks “in a matter of weeks.”

The decision of NATO members to send the tanks to Ukraine is not an uncontroversial move. German diplomats are privately briefing their concern that it marks an escalation in the West’s response to Russia and will be viewed in Moscow as an provocation.

Other European officials argue that the West has already transferred plenty of other advanced weapons that have been used to kill Russians, as well as provided intelligence extensively.

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