Western officials increasingly fear that Ukraine has only a narrow window to prepare to repel an anticipated Russian springtime offensive, and are moving fast to give the Ukrainians sophisticated weapons they had earlier refused to send for fear of provoking Moscow.
Over the last few weeks, one barrier after another has fallen, starting with an agreement by the United States in late December to send a Patriot air-defense system. That was followed by a German commitment last week to provide a Patriot missile battery, and in the span of hours, France, Germany and the United States each promised to send armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine’s battlefields for the first time.
Now it looks likely that modern Western tanks will be added to the growing list of powerful weapons being sent Ukraine’s way, as the United States and its allies take on more risk to defend Ukraine — especially as its military has made unexpected advances and held out against withering assaults.
While Ukraine has been requesting sophisticated tanks since the start of the war, the push to satisfy those pleas gained speed this week as the British and Polish governments publicly urged a change in the Western alliance’s stance. The British signaled that they were close to agreeing to send a small number of tanks, and the Polish government said it would happily send some of its German-made tanks, though Berlin would need to allow it.
Ukraine hopes that the increased pressure will persuade Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz to authorize the export to Ukraine of German-made tanks in the arsenals of other NATO allies. The tanks, called the Leopard 2’s, are among the most coveted by Kyiv, and experts say that in significant numbers, they would substantially increase Ukraine’s ability to drive back Russian forces. [Continue reading…]