The Ukrainians do not expect American and other NATO troops to die for them. They fight bravely on their own even with outdated equipment. Early on in the war, the Ukrainian ancient T-64 tanks routed Russia’s famous 1st Guards Armored Army twice.
By now, however, Ukraine has amassed quite an armored force: in reality and in pledges. Most NATO countries have contributed, the Americans and the British in particular, not just tanks but also other hardware and training. For example, Sweden has dispatched both self-propelled howitzers and CV90 armored vehicles.
We can estimate that Western donations in tanks, self-propelled artillery, and armored vehicles amount to about three NATO-style armored brigades, perhaps even more.
Some of the equipment, in particular old Soviet-era tanks, has come mainly from former satellite nations.
Poland has practically disarmed itself to supply its armor to Ukraine and will require at least two years before it returns to sufficient tank operability. Warsaw has ordered new tanks in the US and South Korea but they are very slow in arriving.
The Balts, Czechs, Slovaks, and Rumanians likewise sent their Soviet-era armor, as well as other weaponry, to succor Ukraine. Central Europeans have the most at the stake here: A Russian victory in Ukraine would be a serious threat to the eastern flank of NATO. It would also resurrect the specter of the Muscovite domination in the Intermarium, the lands between Baltic, Black, and Adriatic seas.
In addition, Morocco has dispatched over a score of its old T-72Bs to Ukraine. In contrast, Columbia and Brazil, both under leftist regimes, predictably turned down America’s call to transfer their Soviet/Russian armor to the Ukrainians as, allegedly threatening peace, a standard Russian propaganda trope.
Cutting-edge armor will start arriving in Ukraine only after a multipronged diplomatic and propaganda offensive by Kiyv, supported by regional allies such as Poland but rammed through the US.
Last year, Ukraine asked for Germany’s Leopard tanks. Berlin refused stubbornly. It even leaned on NATO allies, like Spain, to prevent such transfers.
Germany’s policy was to limit itself to sending solely humanitarian aid to Kiyv. First, by resisting America’s requests to aid Ukraine, the Federal Republic has put itself forth as a putative champion of European independence.
The idea was that if Berlin played tough with the U.S. then most other European countries would bow to German leadership. Push the U.S. far enough, and maybe the Americans will get mad and abandon Europe for Germany’s recrudescent power.
Meanwhile, Germany invoked its pacifism and the horrific legacy of the Second World War as its excuses for staying passive.
On the other hand, by turning down Ukraine’s pleas for help, the Germans showed their reluctance to antagonize the Russians. There is continuity in Berlin’s foreign policy.
However, former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Ostpolitik of coziness with Moscow floundered pathetically. Counting principally on the Kremlin’s energy supply, including the ill-fated Nordstream-2, compromised European energy security. The U.S. has had to bail the EU out.
Despite that at the Ramstein summit earlier this month, Berlin turned down the Biden administration’s request for Leopard tanks to be transferred to Ukraine. The Poles immediately volunteered to give their Leopards to the Ukrainians even without Germany’s permission.
Soon, the Americans applied more pressure on the Germans. The US even pledged to gift M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley armored vehicles to the Ukrainians, even though we initially spurned President Volodymr Zelensky because the attendant logistics (including the required jet fuel) make the Abrams much less suitable than the Leopard for the Ukrainian battlefield.
Yet, Berlin has gradually relented: it condemned unequivocally Russia’s aggression; and it will not only dispatch its own armor there but also allow other allies to do so as well.
Meanwhile, the Poles are once again whittling down their armored force to that end. In addition to a fleet of armored carriers, Canada will send four tanks to Ukraine with more to follow. Even France is putting an armored gift together: AMX-10RC tankettes.
Ukraine needs more, including ammunition. Accordingly, even neutral Switzerland has finally given its blessings to sharing its defense technologies and ammunition with Kiyv. Only besieged Israel demurred to share its stock.
Moscow is furious. It is preparing a new offensive into Ukraine. But the Biden administration has so far failed to elucidate a strategy there in what most of the outside world recognizes to be an American proxy war against Russia.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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