German tanks arrive in Ukraine – Spiegel
The Ukrainian military has received 18 Leopard 2 main battle tanks from Germany, Der Spiegel reported on Monday. Kiev has already taken delivery of the vehicles from Poland, however there is a lack of consensus on whether they will have significant impact on the battlefield.
The tanks left Germany last week and were handed over at an undisclosed location along Ukraine’s western border, the magazine reported, citing anonymous sources. While the exact location of the handover was not made clear, most Western-supplied weapons to date have entered the country via Poland.
After months of hesitation, the German government announced in January that it would send the armor to Ukraine, and would authorize other European countries to donate their own reserves of the tanks. In the time since, Ukrainian tank crews have received around two months of training on the Leopards, with German instructors giving them a condensed version of the Bundeswehr’s normal training course.
Poland has already donated 14 to Ukraine, after giving their crews an even shorter training period of five weeks. Meanwhile, the US intends to supply Kiev’s forces with M1 Abrams tanks by the end of 2023, while Britain is currently training Ukrainian soldiers to operate its Challenger 2 battle tanks, ahead of their planned delivery in the coming weeks.
Poland has already donated 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, after supplying their crews with an even shorter tuition period of five weeks. Meanwhile, the US has pledged to supply Kiev’s forces with M1 Abrams by the end of 2023, and Britain is currently training Ukrainian soldiers to operate its Challenger 2s, ahead of planned deliveries in the coming weeks.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky stated in January that his military needs as many as 500 Western-built tanks to turn back Russia’s forces, an assessment that Western analysts concur with. Franz-Stefan Gady, a researcher at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote in January that Ukraine must field “at least one armored brigade consisting of up to 100 Leopard 2s to have a significant impact on the conflict.”
“Even were Ukraine to succeed in fielding an entire armored brigade or more,” Gady continued, “Moscow’s forces would be likely to adapt, eventually diminishing its power.”
According to Der Spiegel, the Ukrainians were given “an extensive package of weapons and spare parts” along with the tanks. Berlin has identified the complex maintenance of the Leopard 2 as a potential challenge for Ukraine, and is reportedly seeking to set up a maintenance hub in a neighboring country. Poland volunteered earlier this month to build such a facility.
Moscow has said that the Leopards “will burn” in Ukraine like the rest of Kiev’s Western-supplied weapons. The West’s continued efforts to arm Ukraine will only prolong the conflict, without changing its outcome, the Kremlin has stated.