Generously, you would call the tank debate an evolution of views among Western policymakers.
Without generosity, it is more of a debacle and certainly does not present the united front that Western nations fought during this year-long war.
Ukrainians have become accustomed to this pattern of Western indecision.
It follows a now familiar theme: have an almighty argument, say “no”, then agree. It’s almost built into the Ukrainian application deadline.
The news from Berlin and Warsaw – that tanks can go to Ukraine after all – suggests a move on the part of the Americans.
Remember the Germans always said they didn’t want their tank alone fighting the Russians. (The UK’s offer of a handful of Challenger 2s didn’t tip them over.)
The Germans wanted the American M1 Abrams tank alongside their own Leopards.
The Americans said no. Their tank is much bigger, has fuel issues – it’s designed to run on jet fuel which isn’t readily available on the Ukrainian front line, it’s much heavier and relies on a unique supply chain and complex. Remember that in wartime, the success of any army and its equipment is entirely dependent on a constant and smooth supply chain.
The M1 Abrams is also very sophisticated and full of trade secrets, including composite armor containing a hard-to-penetrate depleted uranium mesh.
The battle tank is the tip of an army’s spear. If it is destroyed and left on the wrong side of advancing enemy lines, then its secrets are compromised.
It is one thing that American troops operate and, if necessary, destroy their own damaged tanks. Can they count on Ukrainian soldiers to do the same? This will be one consideration among many for Americans when considering supplying their Abrams.
Within the American debate, opinions are divided. “Why not provide some tanks, older, less sophisticated models, to break the deadlock?” some politicians and generals asked.
Even the former British Prime Minister, such a strong supporter of Ukraineintervened.
“Where does the western world need to park tanks right now? » Boris Johnson request.
“Keep North Rhine-Westphalia? Protect Tennessee? Roaming the villages of Wiltshire? So let me ask the question again: what conceivable grounds can there be for delay? »
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At the Pentagon, the spokesman would not be fired, even as word from Berlin was of motion.
But Gen. Pat Ryder hinted at an announcement down the line, talking about not wanting to “preview an announcement.”
And so expect news maybe today from Washington.
It is likely that all American tanks will take some time to reach the battlefield.
This will iron out supply chain issues and allow time for training. It could also provide space to explore ways to reduce the risk of any technology prized in tanks falling into Russian hands.
Of course the eternal unknown: how will Putin react? Western tanks in the fight will be a game changer and its unpredictable red lines are a constant concern.