‘These are not rental cars’: As Ukraine pleads for tanks, West holds back


The M-1s, for example, are a completely different system from the Soviet-era tanks that Ukraine currently operates and require significant maintenance and logistical support.

“It’s a pretty big hurdle to get from Ukraine not only US-made tanks, but also the parts needed to service them,” said a US official, who like others interviewed for this article , spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing conversations. “You don’t want to give them something that’s going to break down and run out of gas and they can’t refuel them.”

For immediate combat, the Leopards might be better suited as they are similar to the tanks Ukraine already uses and require less fuel than the Abrams, the official said. But Germany has repeatedly rejected Ukraine’s request for tanks, with Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht recently saying that Berlin had agreed with its NATO partners not to take such steps “unilaterally”.

This tank debate is the latest skirmish in the arms back-and-forth between the West and Ukraine. At each stage, the United States hesitated for months before providing a certain weapon – first the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, then later the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System – fearing that they were a “red line “which would risk provoking Russia into further escalation, only to change its mind and transfer arms as the war evolved and battlefield needs changed.

In this case, Western-style tanks would provide a major improvement to Kyiv’s armored force in terms of range, speed and fire control, allowing Ukrainian forces to hit a Russian target up to a mile and a half and a half move before the enemy can shoot. rear, said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army Europe.

But the training required and the logistical tail – an M-1 division can consume up to 600,000 gallons of fuel a day – could hamper movement from Ukraine, he warned.

“These are not rental cars, there are a lot of things that go with them,” Hodges said. “You’re basically adding hundreds of extra things that should be taken away. … You look at a US Army tank company today, there are thousands of gallons of fuel following them every day.

Kyiv’s demand for Western-style tanks predates the most recent counter-offensive and Russian withdrawal from much of eastern Ukraine. But over the past two weeks, senior US officials have been talking with European allies, including Germany, about the possibility of sending tanks into combat, according to a senior US official and a person familiar with the matter.

“It’s at the top of their list now, it wasn’t before,” said a congressman familiar with the request. “They’re trying to take back territory and tanks are useful for doing that.”

A Ukrainian government adviser said “Ukrainians definitely want the Leopards” and were frustrated that Germany had denied permits to Spain and other countries that were willing to donate them. The Leopard tank is one of the most demanded main battle tanks in Europe, used in more than a dozen countries.

NATO nations supplied Ukraine with Soviet-era tanks and combat vehicles during the conflict, led by Poland, which donated about 250 T-72 tanks this spring. Warsaw signed a $1.1 billion deal in July to buy 250 of the most modern Abrams tanks to replace them.

The Germans have replaced smaller nations sending their own armored vehicles to Ukraine, and in May pledged to transfer 15 Leopards from their own stocks to the Czech Republic after sending their own Russian-made armor to Kyiv. In August, Berlin agreed to send another 15 Leopards to Slovakia to replace the 30 armored infantry fighting vehicles they had donated. Several countries, including Spain, have requested German permission to hand over their tanks to Ukraine, but have been denied permission as Berlin continues to struggle with its longstanding policy of refusing to export tanks. arms to conflict zones.

German defense company Rheinmetall also requested government approval to export 88 Leopard tanks to Ukraine, but Berlin refused to grant permission.

Modern tanks could make a significant difference on the battlefield as winter approaches as Putin prepares the additional 300,000 troops for deployment. Experts said it was not yet clear how long it would take Moscow to train and equip the troops for combat, especially since they have varied combat experience.

Speaking at a defense industry conference in Texas on Wednesday, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Havrylov said “winter is also a window of opportunity for [our] military” and equipped with the “right armament and equipment, we can also be more successful in the winter.

Before heading to Texas, Havrylov spent several days in Washington meeting with Pentagon and defense industry officials about what Ukraine is looking for in the coming months. He warned that “some people here and in Europe still think Russia is a sleeping bear, but in fact it is a frightened jackal in bear skin.”

The recall of former Russian soldiers to the army is unlikely to have any effect on the battlefield for months, but it has shaken Russian society. One-way flights from Russia are selling out after the announcement, as ordinary Russians head for the exits, and videos show mass protests against mobilization Across the country.

Former Russian soldiers are poorly trained to begin with, as Russian compulsory military service is only one year, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War. The skills they acquire deteriorate over time because they do not receive any “refresher training”.

“The partial mobilization announcement lacks clarity and will not have a significant impact,” Hodges said. “It will take several months before they can be properly equipped, trained and organised/deployed to Ukraine. And without massive artillery support, these new soldiers will be pure cannon fodder, sitting in cold, damp trenches this winter as Ukrainian forces continue to press.

Russia’s mobilization “is a debacle” for the Kremlin, said Dara Massicot, a Russian military expert at the RAND Corporation and a former Pentagon official.

Putting involuntary recalls “piecemeal into units that are already significantly degraded, and putting them in a situation where morale is already bad”, will likely only add to the morality and unit cohesion issues plaguing the Russian military,” Massicot said.

“It doesn’t solve their problems, it speeds them up.”

In the long term, the United States recognizes that there may come a day when Ukraine will have to switch to tanks compatible with NATO allies, a senior Defense Ministry official said. But for now, Soviet-era tanks are best suited.

“Tanks are absolutely on the table with other areas,” the official said. “In terms of immediate combat, the tanks available that could be delivered very quickly with little or no training are Soviet-type tanks, but we are certainly open to other options provided training, maintenance and sustainment can be taken care of.

Bryan Bender contributed to this report.




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