One day after we sent last week’s editorial to press, the impasse over tank deliveries to Ukraine was finally broken. Thanks to Poland’s previous declaration it would send their Germany-produced Leopard 2 tanks whether Germany let them or not, Berlin confirmed it would send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and authorize other countries to send theirs as well. Until that point Germany had been insisting that it would only send its Leopards and allow other countries to do the same if the United States agreed to send some of its Abrams M1 tanks. But the U.S. was reluctant to so because those vehicles are much more difficult to maintain and operate. As well they require jet fuel instead of diesel. “The maintenance and (with) the high cost that it would take to maintain an Abrams it just doesn’t make sense to provide that to the Ukrainians at this moment,” Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on January 19. Yet, no sooner had Germany agreed to send its Leopards, the U.S. announced it will now send 31 Abrams tanks.
Once Germany and the U.S. gave their green lights, other countries began to follow suit. Poland has said it was prepared to send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks from its stock of around 250. Poland will also send an additional 60 tanks to Ukraine on top of the Leopards, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told CTV News on January 26. Among these will be 30 Polish-made Pt-91s. So far in the war, Warsaw has supplied Ukraine with 250 Soviet T-72s and PT-91s. Finland, which is not in NATO, but has requested to join the alliance, has publicly said it was willing to provide the MBTs, while ABC News reported that Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark were also willing to provide some of their tanks. The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Madrid would supply Leopards once Germany did. Portugal is also reportedly getting ready to send Kyiv four Leopard 2 tanks.
Meanwhile, Norway is considering supplying Ukraine with up to eight Leopard 2s, out of its stock of 35, according to Norwegian publication Dagens Næringsliv. The United Kingdom has pledged 14 Challenger 2 tanks, while France is expected to send its Leclerc tanks. Canada too will send four Leopards Defence Minister Anita Anand announced during a January 26 press conference. When asked why Canada was providing only four tanks — and if more tanks could be provided later — Anand said Canada would only donate vehicles it can support in the field with spare parts and training. She also said Canada needs to ensure the CAF has what it needs to function. On January 26 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there is already a coalition of 12 countries willing to send tanks. Ukraine is asking for about 500 to help defend against an expected new Russian offensive in Spring.
Nevertheless, it’s too early to start celebrating because it’s going to take quite a lot of time before these tanks can be delivered and deployed on the battlefield. Abrams tanks “will take many months before they can get on the ground” in Ukraine, John Kirby, a White House national security spokesperson, said on January 27. And German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that Leopard 2 tanks would arrive in Ukraine in late March or early April. In Canada’s case the problem is that the 64-ton Leopards can only be flown to Europe one at a time by Canada’s C-17 Globemaster cargo planes.
So, while we can be grateful that Western allies have finally agreed to send tanks to Ukraine, we can only wonder why it took so long to reach this agreement. Did the United States and Germany really have to engage in an unnecessary “you first” game while the Russians kept massacring innocent civilians? The main problem with Western assistance to Ukraine is that it is proceeding on a piecemeal basis. First, they were reluctant to supply modern air defense systems. Then it was more powerful artillery (e.g., NATO-standard 155 Howitzers) and medium-range precision rocket systems that could strike behind Russian lines (e.g., U.S.-supplied HIMARS). Next, it was tanks. Now fighter planes and long-range missiles are being held back. The principal reason (at least initially) for denying each new request for weapons that might allow Ukraine to actually defeat Russia, as opposed to merely hold it to a stalemate — at massive cost to Ukraine — has remained unchanged from the outset: NATO members don’t want to escalate the conflict. But Russia has been escalating the conflict throughout the entire war. And, despite all its claims, Moscow has not been escalating in response to the support Ukraine has received from its Western allies. It’s been escalating in response to its horrendous losses on the battlefield. Vladimir Putin cannot bear the humiliation of defeat. So, the more he loses on the battlefield, the more he ups the ante by throwing hundreds of thousands more soldiers into the fray (only to be used as cannon fodder in the end), intensifying the indiscriminate bombardment of towns and cities, and committing mass atrocities in an all-out effort to force Ukraine’s surrender. This strategy has not worked, cannot work, and will never work against a resolute, unbreakable and indomitable Ukrainian nation fighting for its very existence.
However, there is a growing and alarming trend among Western nations to look for some “exit ramp” for Putin. But any “exit ramp” can only be achieved by sacrificing Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which can only reward Russia for its crimes and never sate its voracious appetite for more Ukrainian land. As we have stressed time and time again and will continue to stress over and over again, the only road to peace is through a complete Ukrainian victory that will result in the removal of all Russian forces from Ukraine’s sovereign territory. And only a Ukrainian victory will prevent the world’s authoritarian nations from overwhelming the democratic ones, and aggressive nuclear powers from invading – and absorbing — their peaceful neighbours. And only a concerted effort to support Ukraine with everything it needs to win this war, as opposed to the current piecemeal approach, will make that victory possible.
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