Updated: Apr 29
Brian Gornick, Staff Writer
A battle tank of the Armoured Brigade. Photo//Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP
As the United States and NATO allies announced a massive weapons package for Ukraine last Friday that would supply Ukraine with a large amount of Western weapons, controversy has arisen over one key component that is missing, tanks.
While much of the weapons package will be expanding Ukraine’s defense against air assault, as well as providing them with armored vehicles, Ukraine has been asking for large quantities of Western tanks for a while, to no avail.
Western nations have provided armored support to Ukraine, such as the United Kingdom who last week promised to send a squadron of 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. However, it pales in the hundreds of tanks that Ukraine has requested in the face of a possible Russian offensive in the upcoming spring.
Most of Ukraine’s armed forces are using armor from the Soviet era, including T-72 tanks. The hundreds of tanks that Ukraine is requesting are particularly newer Western models such as the German Leopard 2 and the American Abrams.
American leaders believe that sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine would be too costly. Not only are they incredibly expensive to run and repair, but it would also take a long time to train Ukrainian tank crews to run the tanks efficiently.
“The maintenance and 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," Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said in a press conference last Thursday.
With Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks, the issue is getting them to the Ukrainian army. Germany has been reluctant to send its own Leopard 2 tanks in stockpile to Ukraine. There has been speculation that Germany may block other European nations from exporting their own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
While German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has signaled that he will not be rushed on serious issues concerning the security of Germany and Europe, opponents have argued that his hesitancy has dire consequences.
Global pressure has mounted on Germany, calling for them to end their indecision and send tanks to Ukraine. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted last Saturday a call for Germany to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine from the foreign ministers from all three Baltic states.
While German leadership has been silent on sending tanks, German foreign minister Anna Baerbock announced today that Germany would not sanction any export of Leopard 2 tanks by other countries, in a move that greatly pleased Ukrainian leadership.
Estimates state that there are over 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks in use around the world. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims that Ukraine only needs around 300 to ensure a Russian defeat.