February 1, 2023

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Europe is preparing to send Western tanks to Ukraine


Western coalition response to Russian invasion of Ukraine He took a shot in the arm this week as several European countries for the first time answered President Volodymyr Zelensky’s longtime call to supply modern battle tanks to Kyiv.

FranceAnd Poland The UK has pledged to soon send tanks to the Ukrainian army for use in its efforts to protect itself from Russia. Finland Studying to do the same.

Downing Street said Britain planned to send dozens of additional Challenger 2 tanks and artillery systems as part of efforts to “step up” support to Ukraine. Zelensky thanked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for “decisions that will not only strengthen us on the battlefield but will also send the right signal to other partners” after the two leaders spoke by phone on Saturday.

Speaking alongside Zelensky in the Ukrainian city of Lviv on Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he hopes tanks from a range of Western allies will soon sail by various routes into Ukraine and will be able to bolster Ukraine’s defence.

The moves have increased pressure on Germany, which said last week it would move infantry fighting vehicles to Kyiv but has not yet committed to sending the tanks. Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted that any such plan must be fully coordinated with the entire Western coalition, including the United States.

Western officials told CNN that the decision by some countries but not others to send more tanks was part of a broader assessment of what was happening on the ground in Ukraine. NATO allies have spent recent weeks talking in detail about which countries are best suited to provide certain types of assistance, whether it be military equipment or money.

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

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

While any re-export of tanks by these countries would normally need approval from the German government, Berlin suggested that they would not prevent their transfer to Kyiv.

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

“Germany should not stand in the way of other countries making decisions to support Ukraine, no matter what decisions Germany makes,” Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Thursday on the sidelines of a Green Party meeting in Berlin.

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

“There’s no question we should say no. But we’re saying right now that we’re in an ongoing exchange about the right thing to do at this point in time and how we can best support Ukraine,” Hoffman told reporters.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has so far resisted pressure to send German tanks into Ukraine.

General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s supreme military commander, he told The Economist Last December, the army needed about 300 tanks to fend off the Russians. European Council on Foreign Relations estimates About 2,000 Leopard tanks are spread across Europe.

Oleksey Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on Thursday that he was confident that the tanks promised from European partners would be delivered “very, very quickly” and that Ukraine’s armed forces would “master” the use of the tanks. Tanks “within weeks.”

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

Other European officials argue that the West has already transferred many other advanced weapons that have been used to kill Russians, as well as providing widely used intelligence for Ukraine. Notably, the United States has provided Ukraine with its advanced HIMARS long-range missile systems, which has helped it turn the tide of the war in recent months. In light of this, officials stress that sending additional tanks is not a major escalation, no matter what Moscow might say.

While European allies remain largely united in their support of Ukraine, diplomats who spoke to CNN said there was disagreement over whether sending tanks and more weapons was the quickest and most effective way to end the conflict.

according to Keele institute tracker About the amount of state donations to Ukraine, the United Kingdom, France and Poland have given $ 7.5 billion, $ 1.5 billion and $ 3. billion, respectively. This money consisted of a mixture of military, financial and humanitarian assistance with Poland It had previously fielded more than 200 Soviet-style tanks.

European citizens remain strongly in favor of aid to Ukraine, according to a recent Eurobarometer poll, which found that 74% think European countries should continue to provide aid. This means that if Germany decides to move in line with France, the United Kingdom and Poland, it will likely find that it has the political cover to do so.

The UK and France are expected to continue pressing Germany to join them in this effort in the coming days. If they succeed, it would mean the three major European powers are on full swing as the war approaches its one-year anniversary.

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