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Why are Western tanks so important to Ukraine in its war with Russia?

Since Russia invaded UkraineThis past February, the president of this country, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been asking his allies in the West to send him tanks.

Western countries have refused to supply them.

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On Friday, Zelensky reiterated his request at a meeting of defense ministers from more than 50 countries in Ramstein, Germany.

The ministers agreed to provide Ukraine with more armored vehicles, more air defense systems and ammunition.

But once again, no agreement was reached to send the tanks that Ukraine says it urgently needs.

Zelensky He thanked his NATO allies for the military aid they will send, but said: “We will have to keep fighting for the supply of modern tanks.”

“Every day we make it more evident that there is no alternative, that a decision must be made on the tanks,” he said.

And on Monday, German Foreign Minister Anna Baerbock left a door ajar by saying she “won’t stand in the way” of Poland if it decides to send tanks to Ukraine.

Why are western tanks so important for Ukraine?

offensive in spring

Nearly 11 months after the conflict broke out, NATO officials they believe that Moscow is planning a new offensive in spring with a reinforcement in the number of soldiers, after the mobilization campaign that began in September.

Volodymyr Zelensky, has been repeatedly asking his allies in the West to send him tanks. (EPA).

Western officials believe that in the coming weeks Ukraine has a potential opportunity to push back Russian forces, which are running low on ammunition and reinforcements.

and the tanks they will be needed to overcome the Russian defenses.

“Ukraine will soon carry out a counteroffensive to recover its territory,” Frank Ledwidge, who was a British Army officer in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now a professor of strategy and military capacity at the University of Portsmouth, explains to BBC Mundo. England.

“Offensive ground operations require a combination of armor, which is tanks; artillery, such as guns and mortars; and infantry.”

“The best type of armor that you can have to recover territory is heavy tanks. And the best tanks in the world are the Germans, the British and the Americans,” says the expert.

Ukraine has said that only Western tanks will be able to break the impasse, particularly in the Donbas region, where the two sides’ exchange of artillery and rockets has turned into a fierce stalemate in recent weeks with heavy Ukrainian casualties.

Goggles of a war tank

Goggles of a war tank

War tank

War tank

war tank

war tank

Modern and sophisticated equipment

The Ukrainian army does have tanks, but they are old Soviet-era vehicles, like T-72s, donated by their Eastern European allies or captured from the Russians.

And they have often been outmatched both in numbers and by Russian firepower.

What they are asking for from their western allies are modern tanks like the American-made M-1 Abrams, the British Challenger, or the German Leopard 2.

So far only Britain has promised to send 14 Challenger tanks, an “insufficient” number for Ukraine which is asking for 300 tanks.

Berlin has indicated that it will only send its tanks if Washington agrees to send its M-1 Abrams in a larger NATO package.

Germany has not allowed until now for other European countries to send their Leopard 2s to Ukraine, something they cannot do without the German export license.

However, German Foreign Minister Anna Baerbock said Monday that she “will not stand in the way” of Poland if it decides to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dimitro Kuleba urged all countries that are willing to send Leopard 2 tanks to “to officially and immediately request the German government to allow the delivery of these tanks to Ukraine”.

According to a German government spokesman, no such request has come in so far.

Washington, for its part, refuses to comply with Kyiv’s request because, it says, their tanks are very sophisticated and difficult to maintain.

“The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. It’s expensive. It’s difficult to train. It has a jet engine,” Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top security adviser, said recently.

As Frank Ledwidge points out, the West will not only need to deliver tanks, it will also need to supply training, spare parts and equipment, etc.

“You have to remember that tanks will not function properly and will not be successful without excellent training.”

“Not only to know how to use the equipment itself, but also how to work together so that all the elements of the attack – infantry, armor and artillery – work together,” says the expert.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz is under pressure to allow the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.  (REUTERS).

German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz is under pressure to allow the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. (REUTERS).

The “appreciated” Leopard 2

Although Kyiv is asking all its allies for tanks, the model that really is key in your request is the German Leopard 2.

There are two main reasons why these tanks are so appreciated by Ukraine, says Frank Ledwidge.

“There is a large supply of Leopard 2, and one version in particular, the Leopard 2A4, so there is a lot of capacity in Europe to help with maintenance and repair,” says the former British Army officer.

Some calculations suggest that there are more than 2,000 Leopard tanks in storage across Europe.

And there is also a large supply of ammunition, equipment and spare parts on the mainland, so they are easy to maintain.

“It’s probably the most suitable Western tank for the Ukraine and they are superior to most Russian tanks,” adds Ledwidge.

Dangerous climb?

Russia has already warned Western countries that the supply of tanks to Ukraine will mark an “extremely dangerous” escalation in the conflict.

But experts don’t think this threat has any substance.

The Western allies have already supplied Ukraine with powerful artillery systems, such as HIMARS rocket launchers, with a much longer range than any tank.

The question many are asking is whether Ukraine will really be able to change the course of this war with the tanks of its Western allies.

Former British Army officer Frank Ledwidge he does not believe that tanks will be the “magic bullet” for this conflict.

“No weapon system will change the course of this war,” says the expert. “Javelin (missiles) didn’t do it, anti-tank weapons and HIMARS didn’t do it.”

There are more than 2,000 German Leopard tanks in storage throughout Europe.  (GETTY IMAGES).

There are more than 2,000 German Leopard tanks in storage throughout Europe. (GETTY IMAGES).

“However, it is important to help the Ukrainians and the tanks will play a role, along with all the other weaponry donated by the West, so that they can eventually prevail in this war.”

At the meeting in Ramstein on Friday, Western countries pledged to hand over billions of dollars worth of weapons, albeit without the tanks Ukraine had expected.

United States announced a new aid package of more than US$2.5 billion this week, which includes Bradley armored vehicles, Stryker personnel carriers, and Avenger air defense systems, among other supplies.

And nine other European nations also pledged more support after meeting in Estonia on Thursday.

But Frank Ledwidge believes that in this chapter of the conflict there is one more important aspect to highlight.

It is the fact that with the new weapons that Western countries will send, with or without tanks, the Ukrainian army is getting closer to becoming a NATO standard force.

“This is a very important moment because it implies that Ukraine has already begun the change to convert its army, from a force based on predominantly Soviet equipment, to a NATO team-based force”says Ledwidge.

“Ukraine will gradually run out of spare parts and ammunition for the Soviet equipment it possesses. And for its operations in the coming months to be successful, it will need to transition to standard NATO military equipment.

“This is the true importance of this moment and That must be worrying Russia.”says the expert.

Source: Elcomercio

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