Why Sending Leopard 2 & M1 Abrams Tanks to Ukraine is NATO's Grave Mistake
17:34 GMT 26.01.2023 (Updated: 18:24 GMT 26.01.2023)
Berlin has green-lighted the delivery of Germany's main battle tank (MBT) Leopard 2s to Kiev both from its own stockpiles and those of its allies. For its part, Washington has signaled its own readiness to provide the Ukrainian military with its M1 Abrams equivalent.
"Chancellor Scholz made clear that Germany would not authorize the shipment of German Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine unless the US first authorized the shipment of M-1A1 Abrams tanks," David T. Pyne, an EMP Task Force scholar and former US Department of Defense officer, told Sputnik.
Then, on January 24, "the Biden administration finally relented
and announced they would send about thirty-one M-1A1 Abrams tanks
(which I was trained to fight in as a US Army armor officer back in 1993) to Ukraine."
Clearly, the US and Germany came to an agreement that if Berlin would approve the shipment of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, then the US would follow suit by sending Abrams tanks as well. Accordingly, that is the reason that Scholz finally relented and agreed to send them. I believe that this latest NATO escalation of its proxy war in Ukraine will continue the downward trend in EU-Russia relations to an all-time low.
The decision to deliver the tanks came on the heels of a Ramstein gathering of the Ukraine Contact Group which failed to find common ground on sending Leopard 2s to Kiev. Reportedly, 12 European nations are expected to provide the Ukrainian military with roughly 100 Leopards; Berlin is due to send 14 MBTs.
24 January 2023, 18:36 GMT
"This western decision to send tanks to Ukraine followed a meeting of the Director of the CIA William Burns with President Zelensky who, for the past few weeks, has been sounding the alarm about an imminent major Russian winter offensive," observed Pyne. "Most likely, Burns helped identify shortcomings in the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ ability to defend Ukraine against such an offensive, causing the US and EU to reconsider their reluctance to provide tanks to Ukraine."
The Russian military thwarted plans for the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Zaporozhye region, Vladimir Rogov, a member of the main council of the regional administration, told Russian journalists on January 25. According to him, the Kiev regime's plans to launch a broad offensive against the liberated part of the Zaporozhye region in order to reach the coast of the Sea of Azov had failed.
Meanwhile, Russian troops cut the highway connecting Artemovsk (Bakhmut) with Seversk, thus thwarting the ability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine - which are still holding the key city-turned-meat grinder - to get reinforcements. Having taken Soledar, the Russian forces are attacking Artemovsk from the northwest and are moving in the direction of Razdolovka to the north; Blagodatny to the west; and Krasnaya Gora to the southwest, according to Russian military observers.
"I believe that the US and EU have decided to ramp up military assistance to Ukraine because they share Ukraine’s concern that the Russian winter offensive will succeed in recapturing a large amount of Ukrainian territory and they do not want to see Ukraine’s military collapse with Ukraine forced to accept Russia’s peace terms, which they would view as a major defeat, not only for Ukraine, but for NATO itself," suggested the former Pentagon officer.
26 January 2023, 14:00 GMT
Why Sending Tanks to Ukraine is a Bad Idea
Pyne believes that Berlin and Washington's decision to raise the stakes by sending their main battle tanks to Kiev is a mistake.
First of all, the Russian military has "tens - if not hundreds - of thousands" of rockets, missiles, and other munitions that it can use to blow NATO's MBTs up.
"I believe sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine will serve to quickly pierce the myth of their invulnerability as the Russian military will make them high priority targets as it has tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of missiles, rockets and munitions [Russians] could use to destroy them," the EMP Task Force scholar said. "I think the propaganda value for Russia of publishing pictures in the Russian media of burnt up western tanks will likely be substantial."
Several years ago, Leopard 2A4 tanks
lost their veneer of invincibility after engaging in fierce firefights against Kurdish and Daesh (ISIS)* fighters in 2016 and 2018. Approximately a dozen or more Leopard 2s were destroyed by IEDs, suicide car bombs, and anti-tank guided missiles. To cap it off neither Leopard 2s nor Abrams M1 have fought so far against a worthy conventional foe which has heavy artillery and air support.
25 January 2023, 17:00 GMT
Second, neither 100+ Leopard 2s, nor 30+ M1 Abrams is likely to dramatically reverse the situation on the battlefield.
Of course, [these tanks] will complicate the actions of our troops. But this is not a game changer. We have the T-90 Proryv (Breakthrough) main battle tanks. There are [Russian] anti-tank weapons, there are special combat helicopters working in the conflict zone. Therefore, we are by no means a poor, frightened army that fears these Leopards and Abrams. It will be harder than usual, but [these tanks] won't change the situation on the ground.
Prior to the conflict, Pyne calculated that Russia had a 5-to-1 advantage in terms of the number of tanks they possessed over and above European NATO (excluding Turkey). He believes that advantage in main battle tanks will likely prove decisive for Russia during its special military operation in Ukraine.
"The US and EU would have to provide Ukraine with several times more tanks for it to constitute a game-changer for Kiev," Pyne highlighted.
26 January 2023, 11:32 GMT
Third, "it will take months for the US and other NATO countries to train the Ukrainian military to operate US M-1A1 Abrams, German Leopard 2 and British Challenger 2 tanks before they can be deployed to Ukraine," according to the former DoD officer.
Sending tanks provides no immediate relief for Ukraine, echoed Larry Johnson, a veteran of the CIA and the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism, which provided training to the US Military’s Special Operations task force for 24 years.
"Once they are delivered they will require months of training for the crews who plan to operate them," Johnson told Sputnik. "The decision of NATO to send different brands of tanks further complicates the training and the logistics supply chain required to keep those tanks running (…) None of these tanks are likely to be operating on the battlefield for at least four months. Ukraine will be pushed to the west of the Dniepr River and may no longer exist as a country."
Fourth, since the Ukrainian military won't be able to operate the M1 Abrams and Leopard 2s without proper training, it cannot be ruled out that the machines will initially be staffed by NATO crews, as Johnson noted in his recent blog post.
NATO battle tanks driven by NATO soldiers in Ukraine would elevate tensions between Moscow and the transatlantic bloc to a new level, according to the security expert. This would rubbish Joe Biden's claims that the US' actions don't constitute a direct threat to Russia
Fifth, announcing an escalation like this allows Russia to do the necessary planning to counter the threat and destroy it, according to Johnson. The security expert expressed bewilderment about NATO's open discussions of Ukraine matters in his blog. According to him, "the NATO crowd" appears to be focused on playing "the public relations game."
"It is an unwise escalation and creates a legitimate reason for Russia to take action to prevent the delivery," said the CIA veteran. "This is an act of war. Most are just too polite to say so."
24 January 2023, 20:49 GMT
Russia Won't Back Down, Peace Deal is Way Out
By increasingly providing Ukraine with lethal weapons, NATO fits into the definition of an "aggressor" under international humanitarian law, according to Fahri Erenel, retired brigadier general of the Turkish Armed Forces, professor, and head of the Center for Strategic Studies on Security and Defense at Istinye University.
First, the West supplied Ukraine with light weapons, then medium-range missile systems, and now, having failed to achieve any results, they have begun to increase the capacity of weapons and equipment.
What’s worse, Berlin's decision to send Leopard 2s to the conflict zone sends a signal that Germany is no longer pushing for peace talks, according to the retired brigadier general.
"Western leaders fail to understand that there is literally no possibility of Ukrainian victory or Russian defeat given Russia’s overwhelming advantage over Ukraine in terms of military, industrial and economic strength," argued Pyne. "Furthermore, US national security interests are not at issue in Russia’s ongoing border dispute with Ukraine, as even the most diehard proponents of the war in Ukraine like Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, have conceded while the roll-back of Ukraine’s de facto NATO membership constitutes a vital national security interest for the Russian Federation."
According to the ex-DoD officer, the West should not expect Russia to back down in Ukraine given that Moscow's national interests are at stake. At the same time, the US and NATO's defeat in Ukraine would mean significant reputational damage for the western bloc.
As a result, the more the West escalates its proxy war in Ukraine, the more Russia will escalate its military actions in response, warned Pyne.
"That is why it is imperative for the Biden administration to suspend all lethal military assistance to Ukraine and mediate an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, as I have been calling for the past four months, to avert the dangerous prospects of further escalation of the conflict," Pyne concluded.
*Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) is a terrorist organization banned in Russia and many other countries.