Moscow warns West of 'escalation' over NATO army tanks

Moscow warns West of 'escalation' over NATO army tanks

Leopard 2 tanks belonging to Denmark are shown at a military base in Estonia. More than 100 of the German-made tanks are headed to Ukraine. 

Moscow warns West of 'escalation' over NATO army tanks

Arm-twisting European leaders forced Germany to approve sending its prized Leopard 2 main battle tanks to fight Russian ground troops in Ukraine but the U.S. plan to send M1 Abrams tanks is confounding a military analyst who suspects that decision is more political than strategic.

An NPR story about Germany’s decision describes “weeks of intense pressure” on Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to allow the transfer of the German-built tanks from NATO allies such as Finland and Poland. Germany legally has the final say on the transfer so the countries who have the battle tanks must request an export license, the story explained.

The political pressure was building because Russia is expected to launch a major ground offensive against Ukraine in early spring, and now 100-plus Leopards have been pledged to help Ukraine’s military fight Russia in a war that turns a year old next month.

Russia’s ambassador to Germany, meanwhile, said Germany’s pledge of Leopard 2 tanks “takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation.”

Great Britain has also pledged to send its Challenger 2 main battle tanks, 14 in all, to Ukraine.

According to The Hill, Ukraine is using German's capitulation over the main battle tanks to urge NATO to finally give it modern fighter jets to fight Russia in the skies above Ukraine. A military advisor to Ukraine's defense secretary confirmed the request for F-16s has been sent in recent days. 

Last year, just weeks into the war, the U.S. intervened when Poland planned to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine's air force.  

Back in the U.S., President Joe Biden announced this week our country is pledging to send 31 M1 Abrams to Ukraine’s military. That decision, too, came after weeks of discussions and debate because the Abrams is famously complex to operate and requires serious maintenance to be maintained. It will also be months before those tanks, manned by newly trained Ukrainians, reach eastern Ukraine and rumble into battle.

So the decision to send the M1 tanks is being viewed as a symbolic gesture to assure NATO the U.S. is committed to continuing the proxy war happening in war-torn Ukraine.

Sending the M1 tanks to Ukraine is “more important as a symbol of U.S. and European commitment,” Wesley Clark, a retired general and former NATO commander, told CNN this week.

In a speech to the Assembly of Council of Europe this week, Germany’s foreign minister urged Western allies to remain unified and stand behind Ukraine while it fights Russia’s invasion.

“And that we do not do the ‘blame game’ in Europe,” Annalena Baerbock said, “because we are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other.”

Bob Maginnis, a national security analyst at the Family Research Council, tells AFN the M1 is a “sophisticated piece of hardware” that is difficult to maintain in the field.

Maginnis, Robert (FRC) Maginnis

“I doubt they could maintain it,” he says of Ukraine’s military. “They don't have the infrastructure, the supply chain, and so forth.”

Ukraine’s military is currently using Soviet-era T-62 and T-72 tanks, which date back to the 1960s and 1970s. As far as any future tank battles in the muddy fields of Ukraine, the Russian military is currently operating the more modern T-90 main battle tanks that will soon face the Leopards and Challengers, and eventually M1 tanks.

Responding to NATO’s pledge of new battle tanks, a spokesman for the Kremlin vowed the tanks will “burn like all the others” when they are put into action against Russian’s military.

Because of the sophisticated, state-of-the-art M1 Abrams, Maginnis predicts Moscow is not making plans to blow them up. They will be captured on the battlefield, he says, and taken apart by Russia and China.