NATO goes into direct confrontation with Russia

The meeting of fifty heads of defense departments of the countries – allies of Ukraine at the American Ramstein airbase – ended with the allocation of another package of military assistance. However, the German Leopard 2 tanks were not included in this package, contrary to the urgent demands of Ukrainian President Zelensky. What got in the way?

NATO goes into direct confrontation with Russia
Image source: vesti.com

Serious PR work unfolded around German tanks on the eve of the meeting in the Rammstein format. As if it was about some kind of miraculous wunderwaffe, which, finally, will help to crush the “Russian war machine.” It is worth recalling here that the thesis and the term itself appeared precisely in Nazi Germany, starting around 1942, when Goebbels’ propaganda began to persistently promise the Germans that, they say, such a weapon was about to appear that would turn the tide of the war. First it was supposed to be Panther tanks, then XXI class submarines (neither, by the way, lived up to expectations), then something else.

So now, around the “victorious” Leopard 2 tanks, there is more PR and hype than real calculations that a couple of dozen of these vehicles will be able to decide the fate of hostilities. At the same time, it is precisely the propaganda moment that, apparently, confuses Berlin, or rather, the Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz, most of all. Exactly like the main enthusiasts of this image (German tanks) in the person of the Baltic states, Poles and some others, who are inspired by this particular moment – emotional and political. Perhaps Scholz doesn’t want to see newspaper headlines like “German tanks again in the steppes of Ukraine.” But it is not exactly. And his opponents in the bloc of allies, who continue to persuade him on this score, just want just such headlines.

What exactly are the disputes about? Leopard 2 tanks have been produced since the late 1970s, since then more than 3,500 have been made. Basically, the Germans worked for export. Including hundreds of these tanks are available from European countries. For their re-export to third countries, permission from the country of origin is required. The preliminary list from Germany itself for the supply of Leopards was formed back in the summer and consisted of 19 (only) vehicles, of which Germany itself does not have so many. In total, the Bundeswehr has 312 Leopard tanks of 2 different series. Of these, 99 were sent for repair and maintenance work in May last year, one was decommissioned. There are 212 tanks left. It seems that they were going to give Ukraine 19 pieces of the Leopard 2A5 series, which were used only for exercises. For some it will sound, of course, somehow mocking.

On the eve of the Ramstein meeting, Berlin made it clear that it could agree to supply the Leopards if the US provided its Abrams tanks. Although earlier Washington refused to do this: they say, the tanks are too difficult to maintain (they do not run on diesel, they need high-quality fuel, and a lot), and require long-term training of personnel. Although, there may have been other, unpublished thoughts on this matter. Namely, that the “capricious” Abrams tanks may not show themselves very well in battles on the ground in Ukraine, which, in turn, can harm their image.

On the eve of the Ramstein meeting, Berlin made it clear that it could agree to supply the Leopards if the US provided its Abrams tanks. Although earlier Washington refused to do this: they say, the tanks are too difficult to maintain (they do not run on diesel, they need high-quality fuel, and a lot), and require long-term training of personnel. Although, there may have been other, unpublished thoughts on this matter. Namely, that the “capricious” Abrams tanks may not show themselves very well in battles on the ground in Ukraine, which, in turn, can harm their image.

But Britain decided to ignore image considerations and send 12 of its heavy (they are much heavier than Russian vehicles of a similar class) Challendger tanks to Ukraine, which are already considered not the best tank of all times and peoples. Well, what if it shines, there is nothing to lose? The new batch of British aid will also include FV430 Mk3 Bulldog armored personnel carriers. This is a relatively new car, it began to be developed in 2005 for use in the Middle East. And now they want to test it in Ukraine.

In Ramstein, a “green light” was given for the supply of other armored vehicles. In particular, about 50 American Bradley armored vehicles and about 100 Stryker combat vehicles – in total, the current US next package of assistance to Ukraine alone will cost $ 2.5 billion. It will include new missile and artillery systems and their ammunition. Apparently, the former “line” of the range of the provided rocket and artillery systems will fall. Until recently, it was 80 km, now we are talking about 160 km, which can make it possible to strike at the Crimea. Allied countries also signed up – each for its own portion of supplies.

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Zaluzhny recently said that for a “successful offensive” Ukraine needs at least 300 tanks, 500-600 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, and several hundred artillery systems. This year, Kyiv is unlikely to receive all this in such volumes. But keep asking.

In addition, the attitude of the allies to military supplies is still different for different countries, although this is not openly recognized, but it is declared that it is necessary to continue as long as necessary, and in such volumes as required.

In a sense, during the current meeting, there was even a certain split between the group of the most determined supporters of Kyiv and those who, although they advocate further continuation of assistance, are not enthusiastic. The first group of countries, including Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Estonia, even considered it necessary to sign a separate joint statement, in which they stressed that they remained committed to the idea of ​​sending military and other assistance to Kyiv in “unprecedented” volumes. .

The amount of aid from little Estonia to Ukraine has already reached several hundred million euros, making up a significant part of its military budget. This is not so much about the effectiveness of such assistance in military terms (the Estonian share is still negligible), but about the manifestation of a well-defined political position. But other countries for some reason did not sign the above-mentioned statement. Although it would be wrong to say in this regard that the West is “tired of Ukraine”. Still not enough.

A decision on German tanks could still be made in the foreseeable future, even if Scholz could not be persuaded – bypassing obtaining a special German re-export permit. About which the Germans, of course, can “express concern”, but they cannot and will not block such deliveries, and even more so openly object to the increase in assistance in terms of offensive weapons to Ukraine. In the West today, this is a politically “impassable topic”, and the maximum possible here is to express fears about the “risk of escalation of the conflict.” Poland and Lithuania have already hinted at the possibility of a unilateral solution to the “tank problem”. And Ukrainian tankers will soon begin training in Poland on those very Leopards.

The next meeting in the Ramstein format will be held in February. And if the current one was “tank”, then the next one will be “aviation”. The Netherlands has already made the first submission, declaring its readiness to consider the issue of transferring its F-16 fighters to Ukraine, and the United States made it clear that they would not mind.

Thus, the logic of Western military supplies to Kyiv, which manifested itself from the very beginning of the conflict, is confirmed: what is initially banned is sooner or later included in new aid packages. So it was with tanks, and earlier with more “harmless” types of weapons. So it was in general with weapons that are considered “offensive”. Now it’s taboo too. So it will be with airplanes. As for which (and then it was just Soviet-made MIGs), Biden, I remember, said a resolute “no” to Poland last summer when she raised such a question. And now we are talking about American cars. The next stage is the mass arrival of military advisers, not only for “advice”, but also to manage the increasingly complex systems directly on the battlefield. Well, there and before the direct intervention of NATO in one form or another in a military conflict will already be within reach. If it is considered that this option is more “effective” than the total military mobilization of the Western military industry to meet the ever-growing needs of Ukraine.

Georgy Bovt, IA REGNUM

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