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Western tanks arrive in Ukraine, but will they be enough?


The Western allies have pledged to send at least 105 tanks, far fewer than Ukraine says it needs, and it may be months before they join the battle.

The decision by Germany and the United States to send tanks to Ukraine, reversing months of resistance, sparked fresh promises across Europe on Wednesday and predictions of victory over Russia.

But it may be


before the tanks rumble onto the battlefield.

"These can help Ukraine defend itself, win and prevail as an independent nation," declared

Jens Stoltenberg

, NATO Secretary General.

US President Joe Biden together with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announces the transfer of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.


"It will soon be commonplace to see them prowling the fields of Ukraine," the British Ministry of Defense said in a Twitter post with a photo of a German

Leopard 2

tank and a British-built

Challenger 2

tank chewing up a muddy training ground in Poland.

But not so soon.

Ukrainian troops still need to be trained to use powerful Western war machines, and moving them into the conflict zone is no easy task.

The tanks promised by Berlin and Washington will not be delivered until spring or summer at the earliest, and not in time to help Ukraine defend disputed towns near


in the east of the country where Russian forces have been. recently advancing in a grueling ground assault.

The most immediate payoff from Wednesday's announcements may be the opening of a path for a dozen other European countries to donate their

own German-made Leopard

2s to Ukraine, a step that would not have been taken without

Berlin's consent

and the accompanying promise Washington to contribute their

M1 Abrams tanks.

"The shipment of the Abrams seems to have been the key to unlocking the Leopards, which will probably arrive in Ukraine much sooner," said Sofia Besch, an expert on European defense issues at the

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

in Washington.

Here's a look at what will happen next.

What countries are donating western tanks and how many?

The largest donation comes from the

United States: 31 M1 Abrams

, enough to supply a Ukrainian military battalion.

The Abrams is one of the most sophisticated tank systems in the world, but it requires specific training, parts technology, and often specialized fuels to keep it running reliably.

On Wednesday, US officials said it would be at least months before the Abrams could be delivered - and declined to elaborate - although other experts said it could take at least a year.

Britain, Germany and Poland

have pledged to send 14 tankers each, and London expects delivery of its

Challenger 2s

in a matter of weeks.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius predicted that it would take three to four months for Berlin to send its Leopard 2 tanks.


has indicated that it is ready to send its own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.


has said it could supply four Leopard 2s, and


has said it could supply eight more.

Spain, Finland and the Netherlands

have promised to send another Leopard 2, although without specifying how many.



is considering giving Ukraine an unknown number of its Leclerc tanks.

In addition,


has said it could send 20 Swiss-made

Piranha tanks

to Ukraine once the government in Bern agrees to their re-export, a process that moved forward last weekend after stalling for months.

In all, at least


Western tanks have been committed, at least in principle.

It's enough?

The Ukrainian military has long said that it needs at least

300 Western tanks

to make a difference in the war.

That "is a huge number of tanks nationwide," according to an analysis on Wednesday by


, the London-based intelligence firm.

European armies have in their possession at least 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks and hundreds of other types of Western main battle tanks.

The Russians also have thousands of tanks still available in what has become a

war of quick attrition

, said David Silbey, a military historian at Cornell University who specializes in battlefield analysis.

"The West will never be able to match those numbers point for point," Silbey said.

"But given the

quality advantage of

the Leopard or Abrams over even the most modern Russian tank, if the West could supply 500 to 1,000 tanks, it would make a

huge difference

to the Ukrainians and to the war."

When will Ukrainian troops be ready to use them?

Some will arrive at British training grounds in the coming days to start training with the Challenger 2 tanks London committed to this month, according to

Vadym Prystaiko

, Ukraine's ambassador to the UK.

Some former military officials and experts have disputed claims -- mainly by the United States -- that it could take months to train Ukrainian forces to use the tanks.

They point out that the Ukrainian troops selected to crew them will already have been trained with Soviet-era tanks.

So learning to drive the diesel-powered Leopard 2s, which are easier to drive than the M1 Abrams, could take just

three to four weeks

"to achieve basic proficiency," the International Institute for Strategic Studies said this month. .

US officials, who briefed journalists on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, described a

much more complicated process

for the M1 Abrams, which involves training not only to operate the tanks, but also to maintain them.

Part of that process will involve creating a

stable supply chain

to ensure tankers receive the fuel, parts and other support they would need on the front lines.

Although the Abrams may not arrive on the battlefield for "some time," according to the description of a US official, the training of Ukrainian troops to use them will begin quickly.

US troops in Germany

are already training Ukrainian forces

in a series of combined and coordinated arms, including armored fighting vehicles.

Will they have enough ammunition?

Ammunition shortages have been a nightmare for Ukrainian forces almost since the start of the war, as they rely on dwindling stockpiles of ammunition for their tanks and other Soviet-era weapons.

Captured Russian main battle tanks have been an essential patch for Ukraine, but

spare parts

for them are often hard to come by, according to Ukrainian soldiers.

The Western-made tanks use ammunition compatible with NATO stocks, meaning they could be replenished by any of the 30 member states of the military alliance or their partners.

The tanks will be delivered with some additional supplies of ammunition.

However, the war has so depleted Western arsenals that some allies wonder if they will have enough for other possible conflicts or even for their own self-defence.

While the new Western tanks are essential to any future Ukrainian offensive operation, they can be a real headache for Ukraine's legions of supply officers.

German and American tanks have different parts and maintenance regimes, and both fire different types of ammunition than the Soviet-era tanks Ukraine currently has in its fields.

How will they get to the battlefield?

The process of delivering Western weapons and other military equipment to Ukraine has been one of

the war's

best-kept secrets .

Concerns that Russia would attack roads, railways or materiel regrouping points have called for what officials and experts describe as stealthy convoys, usually camouflaged or shrouded in darkness, to evade attacks.

Former Western officers and military experts have outlined a patchwork of delivery routes, largely originating from centers in

Poland, Slovakia and Germany,

that will be crucial in getting tanks, armored fighting vehicles and huge guns to the front line.

Most of the weapons will be transported in rail cars or flatbed trucks strong enough to support their enormous weight.

Rail is often the fastest and safest way to transport armor, experts say, as long convoys of flatbed trucks would most likely attract Russian attention.

Getting the tanks and other armored vehicles to the battlefield would take too much time, fuel and spare parts, experts say.

They would also essentially become a moving target for


warplanes .

The risks are so daunting - and the concern about provoking Russia so great - that instead of being brought into the conflict zone by Western forces or contractors, Ukrainian troops must retrieve weapons from depots located on Russian

territory. NATO.

c.2023 The New York Times Company

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Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-01-26

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