The UK has pledged to deliver more than a dozen battle tanks to Ukraine as it continues to fight invading Russian forces.
Moscow responded angrily, saying that all units the UK planned to send would “burn out” and would do nothing to change the outcome of the nearly year-long war.
The UK’s announcement is likely to increase pressure on Germany to allow the export of German-made tanks to Ukraine, as many European countries await approval from Berlin.
Here’s what you need to know:
Why Ukraine calls for tanks?
The Ukrainian government has repeatedly appealed for additional weapons – including battle tanks – from its Western allies to bolster its efforts to drive Russian forces out of the country.
So far, Ukraine has relied mainly on variants of the Soviet-era T-72 tanks.
Battle tanks designed by NATO countries – such as those produced by the United Kingdom and Germany – would provide Kyiv’s forces with better protection and more accurate firepower.
However, it will not provide an immediate boost in terms of combat capability because Ukrainian forces will need to be trained to use any tanks provided by the Western allies – a process that is likely to take at least several weeks, if not longer.
What countries promised tanks?
The United Kingdom confirmed on Monday that it will send 14 of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine as well as other advanced artillery support in the coming weeks.
Among Kyiv’s other allies, Poland has said it is keen to send German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition, but requires Berlin’s approval to do so under rules governing re-exports of German military equipment.
Finland also raised the possibility of supplying Leopard tanks to Ukraine, but said that it depended on the leadership of Germany.
Meanwhile, Latvia urged Kyiv’s allies to provide it with “all necessary support”.
Ukraine should have it all [the] Weapons needed… to resist this attack. Therefore, all tanks should be delivered to Ukraine when possible,” Latvian President Egils Levits told Al Jazeera on Monday.
Are there divisions in the West’s response?
Germany has resisted supplying battle tanks to Ukraine so far, saying such units should only be provided to Kyiv if there is an agreement between its main allies, especially the United States.
Re-export of the Panthers requires the approval of the German government, so other countries that have such tanks cannot send them to Ukraine without them.
The United States operates thousands of M1 Abrams tanks built by General Dynamics, but they are seen as unsuitable for Ukraine as they are powered by gas turbine engines.
France, another major ally of Ukraine, has not said whether it is ready to offer any of its Leclerc tanks to Ukraine.
Earlier this month, the United States said it would send dozens of Bradley armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine, as Germany and France also committed to sending armored vehicles.
A decision on the Leopard 2 tanks could be reached on Friday, when Ukraine’s allies are scheduled to hold talks in Germany on boosting military support to Ukraine.
The meeting in Ramstein comes as Chancellor Olaf Scholz faces mounting pressure to allow the export of Leopard 2 tanks.
Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, whose Economics Ministry is responsible for approving defense exports, said Thursday that Berlin should not stand in the way of countries that own such units and want to supply them to Kyiv.
How did Russia react?
The Kremlin said that the tanks the UK plans to send to Ukraine will “burn”.
“that they [the UK] “They are using this country as a tool to achieve their anti-Russian goals,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday when asked about the move.
“These tanks … will burn just like the rest,” he said, adding that the new supplies would not change the situation on the ground in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the pro-Kremlin presenter on state TV channel Russia 1 said the UK had “de facto entered the war” with its move to supply the units.
“I now consider Britain a legitimate target for us,” said Vladimir Soloviev.
Will tanks make a difference in war?
As Russian forces fortify their positions in occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, possibly preparing for a new offensive in the coming months, battle tanks will provide Ukraine with the means to better defend itself and possibly achieve battlefield breakthroughs.
Experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British think tank, He said Last week, about 100 tanks were needed in order to have a “significant impact on combat”.
“This would rejuvenate the Kyiv tank fleet, which had suffered from attrition, and increase its capabilities,” said the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
She added, “As politically noticeable as it may be, providing a small number would actually only be a symbolic gesture.”
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