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UK considering sending tanks to Ukraine for first time

Sky News reports that the UK may supply Ukraine with British tanks to combat Russia’s invading troops.

According to a source familiar with the discussions, there have been talks for “a few weeks” regarding the delivery of a number Challenger 2 main battle tanks from the British Army to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

This move would be a major step up in Western support for Ukraine and could encourage other NATO allies to do the same, especially Germany.

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A source in Ukraine said that it would encourage others to buy tanks.

Rishi Sunak’s government has not yet made a final decision, but if it did sign off on such an order it would be the first country to respond to the pleas of Ukrainian leaders to equip their army with powerful Western tanks.

The next meeting of the US-led grouping, which includes 50 countries, that provides military support to Ukraine will be held on 20 January. It is possible that announcements regarding new assistance such as tanks could be made in conjunction with the Contact Group gathering.

According to one source, Britain may offer 10 Challenger 2 tanks. This would be enough to equip a squadron.

Although this would not in and of itself be a game changer, it would be hugely significant as it would break a barrier that had prevented allies from offering Western tanks to Ukraine out of fear of being viewed as too escalatory.

Sources said that this could encourage other allies to do so.

According to a Ukrainian source, “It will be an excellent precedent to demonstrate [to] other countries – to Germany with their Leopards…and Abrams from America”

Image Ukraine long demanded German-made Leopard II tanks

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Germany is more cautious

The mass-produced German-made Leopard II tanks have been requested by Ukraine for many years. They are used by many European allies including Germany, Poland and Finland as well as Spain.

Helsinki and Warsaw have indicated their willingness to supply their Leopard tanks in Kyiv, but Berlin must approve this as Germany holds the export license.

The German chancellor Olaf Scholz has taken a more cautious approach than other countries to equip Ukraine with weapons, such as the UK or the United States.

He has been slowly increasing his country’s support.

Germany and the USA promise armoured combat vehicle

In a major policy shift, Washington and Berlin announced last week that they would supply Ukraine armoured combat vehicles. This is the Marder infantry fighting car. It also includes the Bradley Fighting Vehicle for the United States.

The economy minister stated that Berlin could not rule out the delivery Leopard tanks, which are more powerful fighting vehicles than the Marder, over the weekend. A spokesperson for the German government said Monday that it does not plan to send tanks.

The Ministry of Defence of the UK would not confirm or deny that the British government was looking at supplying tanks to Ukraine.

A spokesperson stated that the government had committed to matching or exceeding last year’s funding for Ukrainian military aid in 2023. We will also continue to build upon recent donations by training and gifting more equipment.

“We have supplied over 200 armoured vehicles in Ukraine so far – including Stormer vehicles equipped with Starstreak missiles.

“We also donated thousands of items, including helmets, body armour, mobility, logistics vehicles, anti-tank weapons and air defense missiles and systems, as well as winter and medical equipment.”

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The UK sent 14 Challenger 2 tanks from the UK to Poland last year as part of a deal with Ukraine to free up Warsaw’s capacity to supply its Soviet-era T72 tanks to Kyiv.

The Challenger 2 tank, which has been in service since 1994, weighs 62.5 tonnes. It is equipped with a 120mm rifled and 7.62mm chain guns.

Western tanks could tip balance

Estonia is home to a squadron Challenger tanks as part of NATO’s eastern Europe mission. This mission aims to prevent Russian aggression. The Challenger 2 was deployed previously in Bosnia and the 2003 war in Iraq.

Colonel Hamish de Bretton, who was a former commander in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment said that the introduction of Western tanks would “tip the balance” in Ukraine’s favor.

He stated, “Strategically, this sends [Russian President Vladimir] Putin a very clear message that nothing is off-the-table.”

“Challenger 2 is a modern tank. Leopard II is a modern tank. He added that they are safer, more reliable and faster.

Ukraine’s military, however, is using Soviet-era tanks such as the T-72. Some of these have been supplied by other partners.

Russia’s military relies heavily on tanks made during the Cold War.

Although the UK’s Challenger tanks are modern, they were last updated in 1990s. They are currently being upgraded. Ukrainian soldiers will need to be taught how to operate and maintain them.

Russia stated Monday that any new Western weapons deliveries to Kyiv by Russia would only “deepen the sufferings of the Ukrainian people” but not alter the course of conflict.


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