Western Tanks for Ukraine Might Be Too Little, Too Late

It is big news that the United States will send tanks such as the M1 Abrams and the German Leopard 2 to Ukraine to help strengthen its defending armored forces.

Is this an example of too little, too late? It could be.

It is not difficult to see the number of high-firepower, heavily armored vehicles made available for Kyiv.

The British sent only 14 tanks, which is enough to equip a single tank company that has no replacements. Despite its outstanding features and performance, the Challenger 2 was never exported by the Brits. Only 450 Challenger 2s were ever made, most of them for the British Army.

Berlin, despite producing thousands of highly-regarded Leopard 2s for domestic use and export, has also pledged to deliver just a few hundred tanks. Ditto Poland. They will send another company the Leopards they bought to replace many Soviet-era tanks they had left from their time as a Soviet client.

Expect the arrival of the Leopards this summer with all the necessary munitions, spares, and training equipment. This will transform a group of men and their gear into a fighting force.

Poland will also send its upgraded T-72s, the PT-91 Twardy, in greater numbers. Warsaw announced that Kyiv would be receiving 60 of these aircraft in a relatively short time.

Spain, Finland, and Norway also indicated that they are open to joining the alliance, but were hesitant about how many tanks and when.

The United States is most curious. The Biden Administration announced that 31 M1A2 Abrams would be donated to the United States. This sounds like a generous gift, but they may not arrive until next year.

Biden decided not to send the M1A3 (the most recent version of the M1) because of legitimate concerns that the Russians might capture at least one of these and gain access to our most sensitive technologies. Instead of sending the M1A1s older than we have (which is a common choice), Biden sent the M1A2 in between.

These will need to be made fresh and without the super-hard-depleted uranium armor for Ukraine. To me, this decision seems so stupid.

Experts estimate that Ukraine would require 300-500 Western tanks to make a difference and transform the Army into an armored maneuver force capable enough to rouse the Russians. This is enough to equip a reinforced armored division. However, the qualitative advantage over Russian troops would likely be decisive.

Decisive… Ah, there’s the rub.

It was in March last year that the decision to send heavy armor should have been taken. Ukraine had more fighting in it than anyone thought.

Instead, Western indecision allowed Moscow to decide the terms and pace for the war and define what constitutes “escalation”.

Don’t listen to those who want Ukraine erased from the world map. Remember that Russia was the first country to send modern frontline main battle tanks (MBTs) to Ukraine — and Putin ordered them in thousands. The Kremlin could order their MBTs back to Russia if they don’t like the situation in Ukraine.

Moscow has the ability to adapt and adjust when we send so few tanks on such a short timeline. Worse, this war has more negative consequences the longer it goes.

Kyiv had almost promised a winter counteroffensive, similar to retaking Kherson or Kharkiv last fall. However, this would only be possible once the ground freezes solid enough for offensive operations. However, Western capitals hemming in and hawing prevented Kyiv from receiving the weapons it needs. Now Moscow is back on the offensive in the Donbass region (albeit slowly and with great losses).

The U.S. has already spent $4 billion less on military assistance to Taiwan. Russia is the immediate threat, while Communist China remains a more serious and long-term threat.

These are serious issues that might not have occurred if Washington, Berlin, or London had done their jobs and made timely decisions.

Fair enough, the West has not responded to Moscow’s predations in a slow and weak manner, all the way back in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia.

Now, the question is whether we act decisively enough in order to deter future predations or whether Moscow seizes Ukraine and then moves against Moldova, Finland, and even the Baltic States and Poland.

It is possible that we are running out of answers.