Tue. Oct 4th, 2022

Gustav Gressel, Senior Policy Fellow, ECFR:

  • Weapons supplied by the West have played an important role enabling Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian invasion. Short-range anti-tank weapons were important to defend Ukrainian cities at the very beginning. 155mm artillery and HIMARS rockets have helped tilt the tide in the artillery war in Donbas. Now, Ukraine needs heavy manoeuvre forces to roll back Russian conquests and liberate occupied territories.
  • Regarding main battle tanks, Poland has so far backfilled the Ukrainian armed forces with T-72s and PT-91. Further T-72s were delivered by the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Now, these tanks play an important role in the counter-offensive, but T-72 variants in Europe are exhausted. Ukraine will have to transition to Western tanks one way or the other.
  • The Leopard 2 tank, particularly the 2A4 and 2A5 variant, is used by 13 European armies. There are abundant of spare vehicles in stock, which could be delivered after a relatively short overhaul. Using the Leopard 2 to equip Ukrainian armed forces would allow relatively fast supplies of significant quantities of tanks.
  • The Leopard 2 is more survivable than the T-72, crews have a much higher chance surviving a hit. As the war is already seven months old, experienced tank crews and commanders get increasingly rare on both sides. Tank commanders and crews take much longer to train than buying a tank, hence equipping Ukraine with a more survivable Western tank would give Ukrainian forces an advantage in the sustainability of their effort.
  • The Leopard 2 is still in production, and most critical spare parts are interchangeable throughout all versions of the tank. This increases flexibility in managing spare parts and maintenance and would provide an unparalleled advantage for Ukraine’s logistics strained by war.

Rafael Loss, Coordinator for Pan-European Data Projects, ECFR:

  • Western support has been essential for Ukraine’s defensive fight against Russia and Ukrainians have proven capable in using modern Western-supplied equipment, like precision artillery and drones, to great effect.
  • Now, the war enters a new stage where the ability to move forces under fire and exploit weaknesses in Russian lines are of utmost importance – artillery and infantry weapons alone will not suffice. Battle tanks and other armoured vehicles would allow Ukraine’s armed forces to build on the successes of the past days and replicate them to liberate other parts of their country.
  • By taking the initiative and building a European coalition to support Ukraine with these systems Berlin “would not go it alone,” as chancellor Scholz keeps repeating. Instead, it would be at the centre of the effort to strengthen Europeans’ role and agency in standing up to Russian aggression. And there are growing indications that Washington would support such an initiative.

Jana Puglierin, Senior Policy Fellow and Head of Berlin office, ECFR:

  • This is a window of opportunity for Europeans to fill their idea of Europeans sovereignty and “partnership in leadership” with life. So far, Biden’s leadership and American deliveries have made up the bulk of Western support to Ukraine. If Europeans want to take greater ownership for European security, they need to step up now – in concert, and in coordination with Washington.

Related research:

All analysis on Russia’s war on Ukraine and its implications you can find here.