Germany has announced it will provide Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv’s troops in a major sign of support that is expected to be matched by the United States.
The decision followed weeks of Western pressure, ending a period of deliberation in Berlin that has frustrated its allies and caused exasperation in Kyiv.
Why this matters: Wednesday’s announcement means Ukraine will soon be in possession of a modern tank that would hugely boost its arsenal ahead of renewed ground fighting anticipated in the spring.
Ukraine is bracing for a Russian offensive in the coming weeks, aimed at completing the capture of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – the primary goal set by President Vladimir Putin for what he euphemistically calls his “special military operation.”
The Ukrainian military’s most senior officer, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhniy, said in December that Ukraine expected a Russian offensive any time between the end of January and March.
Previous military aid, like the American HIMARS rocket system, has been vital in helping Ukraine disrupt Russian advances and make a series of successful counter-offensives in recent months.
Kyiv will hope that Western tanks will have a similar impact on the slow, grinding ground war in Ukraine’s east.
Tanks represent the most powerful direct offensive weapon provided to Ukraine so far, a heavily armed and armored system designed to meet the enemy head on instead of firing from a distance. If used properly with the necessary training, they could allow Ukraine to retake territory against Russian forces that have had time to dig defensive lines.
The US has begun supplying refurbished Soviet-era T-72 tanks, but modern Western tanks are a generation ahead in terms of their ability to target enemy positions. Ukrainian officials say they need several hundred main battle tanks – not only to defend their present positions but also to take the fight to the enemy in the coming months.
“Of course, we need a large number of Western tanks. They are much better than the Soviet models and can help us advance,” Lt. Gen. Serhiy Naiev told CNN.
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