The never-ending story of Western tank deliveries to Kyiv continues to play out primarily in the media: due to a lack of real “hardware” and because politicians in the West don’t like to be held accountable for their words. Only Berlin seems to be willing to accept the prospect of the crews supplying the ship.
By Sergei Axyonov
Deliveries of tanks from the West to Kyiv continue to take place primarily in the media. Among other things, due to the lack of real “hardware” and because the politicians there are not willing to stand up for their words. But maybe also because Western crews may be necessary?
Lost in illusions: SPD General Kühnert wants to defeat Russia with further arms deliveries
After official Berlin agreed to the delivery of Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev, the German partners suddenly fell silent. Kevin Kühnert, General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, complains about this. Kühnert is the head of the governing party under Chancellor Olaf Scholz, so you should listen carefully. The media quote the Social Democrats:
“In the past few weeks, one has sometimes got the impression that everyone wants to deliver, only the Federal Republic of Germany does not. Now we see that Germany is making a concrete commitment, and a tank company is actually being delivered. And suddenly it became very quiet around us.”
The annoyance of the FRG government is understandable. Finally, she was publicly forced to deliver the Leopard tanks, which Berlin had not even planned. Before the start of the Russian intervention in the conflict in Ukraine, Berlin even wanted to limit itself to delivering helmets. The European NATO allies weren’t exactly keen on giving up their armored vehicles either, but at least they had an excuse: They said it was legally impossible to re-export armaments without the consent of the manufacturer, Germany. It looked like Scholz would delay the common cause.
In addition, Great Britain had agreed to sacrifice its Challenger II. The world would later learn that London feared for the safety of the armored technology. Completing the matter was the US’s expressed determination to hand over its jet fighter among tanks, the M1 Abrams, to Kyiv. Unable to withstand this moral pressure, Scholz caved in and promised to do whatever was asked of him.
But now it turns out that the Abrams won’t be available before the end of the year and that EU countries are sabotaging their own promises. loss of face? But hello!
The new Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius helped Scholz in his attempts to save his own reputation. At a meeting with representatives of other EU countries, he tried to get concrete commitments for tank deliveries to Ukraine. However, none of them gave an exact number. They all hope to somehow get together at least three dozen tanks. Alone: To what extent will this change Kiev’s position on the battlefield at all? The whole thing looks more like mockery. Selensky himself has already mentioned this.
The prime example of one of the sabotaging states par excellence is Portugal, which promised to deliver four vehicles to Ukraine. But now Lisbon is asking the Germans for spare parts to make these tanks workable. It turned out that there were 37 Leopard 2s in Portugal’s inventories, but almost all of them are defective. This was revealed by the Portuguese press and later confirmed by Admiral António Silva Ribeiro, a commander of the Portuguese Armed Forces, upon learning of the upcoming “gift” to Kyiv.
Blind Spot in the Tank Debate: Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About Abrams?
The Pyrenean mountain range neighbors of the Portuguese are no better. For more than a decade, Spain has stored 53 Leopard 2s in military depots in Zaragoza, awaiting refurbishment. But that is either too expensive or there is a fundamental lack of will to do so.
The only NATO country that partially kept its promises was Canada: Only recently (again: 1 piece) Leopard 2 was airlifted from there to the Netherlands.
From now on it is a training vehicle on which Ukrainian crews are trained.
Just what prevented Ottawa from sending all four promised tanks to Europe at once, like the US did with its 60 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles? But no, Ottawa decided to hold back on the goodies. Those tights. Should that have rubbed off on them from the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada?
In general, the money factor should not be ignored. The US’s NATO allies – especially those in Europe – are slowly realizing that if they hand over their tank fleets to Ukraine (because they are few at the moment – and tomorrow they could be asked to have them all), they will one day have new machines have to procure. New Leopard just cost a lot of money. All the more so since the US could prevent Germany from making money from exporting its tanks – and instead could itself impose their expensive Abrams on Europe, just as they are already imposing their outrageously expensive liquefied natural gas on it.
Another reason for this hesitation is the lack of confidence in Ukrainian tank crews. How can you entrust these people with high-tech products from the German armaments industry? They will sell them to the Russian secret service at the first opportunity.
Colonel Reisner admits to ZDF: “We underestimated Russia”
From this it follows that crews from the ranks of NATO troops must be deployed together with the tanks. Technically it is possible. At a recent conference at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, Colonel Markus Reisner made it clear that Ukrainian soldiers could be replaced by NATO soldiers on “vacation”. They could, yes, but with what consequences? A little food for thought: It was not until February 6th that Ukrainian troops shot up a group of Polish soldiers in Ugledar. In other words: in Ukraine, NATO soldiers are being shot at from within their own ranks, often with fatal outcomes. How many active duty soldiers in NATO forces would want to take such a “vacation”?
But the main reason for the reluctance of the Europeans is of course political. This western war against Russia is becoming more and more reminiscent of the failed push to the east in the middle of the 20th century. One remembers the revelations of the German Minister Annalena Baerbock. At that time, Hitler was supported by almost all of Europe. Now, as the present conflict continues to unfold, politicians and even ordinary people in the West are beginning to realize what the outcome of this war may one day be for the Old World. Hence their relative caution.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić put it in a nutshell:
“I think the West’s biggest mistake is that it announced the supply of tanks. Especially German tanks. And I’ll tell you why: they’re terrible tanks. It’s impossible to say which is better , Challenger, Leopard or Abrams. But now they got all the Russians to unite in one day.”
When you see the crosses of the Wehrmacht on the armored behemoths crawling across Ukrainian soil – and they aren’t even German tanks, but rather tanks from the Soviet fleets inherited from Kyiv – it’s clear: the Russians will be reminded of Stalingrad feel.
And the Russians will all come to the same conclusion: these tanks must burn. Russia has multiplied production of 152mm Krasnopol-type guided artillery shells to destroy Abrams and Leopard tanks, the Russians read in the news. You read that in the EU too – hence the anxious hesitation there.
more on the subject – After Stalingrad: This is how Paulus and his generals behaved in Soviet captivity
Translated from Russian.
Sergei Axyonov is a journalist, political scientist and writer. He looks back on a turbulent career as a politician and political activist (National Bolsheviks, “Other Russia”) and human rights activist in Russia.