Zelensky wants Western tanks ASAP - Dispatch Weekly

January 26, 2023 - Reading time: 5 minutes

The President of Ukraine praised Western countries for sending tanks to aid in the conflict with Russia, but he insisted that they be delivered as soon as possible.

Volodymyr Zelensky also urged the West to provide fighter jets and long-range missiles in his nightly address.

He made his remarks after the US and Germany said they would send Abrams and Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

The announcement was denounced by Russia as a “blatant provocation,” and any supplied tanks will be obliterated.

“Like the others, these tanks also burn. Simply put, they are quite expensive,” a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin remarked.

Mr Zelensky said he told Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg that “progress must be made in other aspects of our defence co-operation” – with Ukraine seeking supplies of long-range missiles and artillery.

In addition, he pushed for the rapid shipment of Western tanks as well as their substantial deployment: “We must assemble such a tank force, such a freedom force that, after it hits, tyranny will never again rise up,” he stated.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden declared that the US would supply 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine.

Only a few hours after Germany declared it would send 14 of its Leopard 2 combat vehicles to Ukraine, the decision to dispatch the tanks was made.

Berlin also made it possible for other European nations to donate tanks from their own inventories that were produced in Germany.

For months, Ukraine has pushed its Western friends to provide the equipment.

Nearly a year after Moscow’s invasion, it hailed the dual declarations as a turning point that would enable its forces to gather steam and retake captured territory.

Additionally, it stated that the tanks might contribute in preventing a possible Russian spring offensive.

“Putin expected Europe and the United States to weaken their resolve,” US President Joe Biden said in announcing the country’s decision to deploy tanks, adding that “he was wrong from the beginning and he continues to be wrong.”

Additionally, he added: “We are providing Ukraine with the tools and parts required to sustain these tanks in action.”

“Helping Ukraine defend and protect its territory is the purpose of this. Russia is not under any direct threat from it.”

That figure has been agreed upon because a Ukrainian tank battalion generally consists of 31 tanks, according to Mr. Biden.

The US decision, however, represents a change of policy from the Biden administration, which has long maintained that the hefty M1 Abrams tanks would be problematic for Ukrainian troops to operate and impossible to deploy and repair.

One of the most cutting-edge combat tanks in the world, the US-built military vehicle requires rigorous training to operate.

Eight recovery vehicles that can tow the tanks if they become stuck are also a part of the $400 million (£323 million) US package, along with ammunition, equipment, and funds for maintenance and training.

However, it will probably be months before the tanks arrive on the battlefield.

There are no extra Abrams tanks in the US arsenal, according to John Kirby, the national security spokesman for the White House. They must therefore be purchased from independent businesses or imported from abroad.

However, the German-made Leopard 2 tanks will be taken from stockpiles already in place and are scheduled to arrive in two to three months. They are frequently regarded as one of the most potent battle tanks on the market.

After weeks of diplomatic back and forth, the decision was made to send the powerful weaponry. Germany was under increasing pressure from other countries to send the tanks, and there are rumours that the US’s participation in the move was a need for Germany’s final decision.

Mr. Kirby responded when asked if the US action was intended to give Germany cover to send tanks: “I wouldn’t say “cover,” though. This choice demonstrates how allied we are with our partners.”

Without going into further detail, he attributed the shift in Washington’s posture to both the actual situation and Russia’s strategy.

According to officials in Berlin, Ukrainian crews will soon be trained to operate Leopard tanks in Germany.

While Mr. Zelensky’s purchase of tanks from the West will be regarded as a diplomatic success, he stated on Tuesday that his nation needed at least 300 tanks to beat Russia.

Due to the German decision, some of the Leopard 2 tanks that are currently in the possession of many European nations can now also be delivered to Ukraine. Germany anticipates that eventually 90 will reach the front lines.

Later on Wednesday, Poland declared that it would send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and Norway said it would send some armoured vehicles, though it did not specify how many.

When Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration declared that 14 Challenger 2s, the British army’s main battle tank, would be delivered, the UK became the first member of Nato to donate contemporary tanks to Ukraine.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.