TOKYO - The provision of tanks to Ukraine by the United States and European countries could be a decisive factor to break the stalemate in Russia’s invasion and force its military to withdraw.
It is hoped that the countries concerned will maintain cooperation and realise the provision of tanks as soon as possible.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Western countries to immediately provide tanks. This is because he believes that Western-made tanks with high mobility and combat capabilities are indispensable to retaking territory occupied by Russia and bringing the war to an end.
The Western side has so far focused on providing weapons that protect Ukraine from Russian attacks, such as portable anti-tank missiles. Although they have had a certain effect, the fighting has become protracted, with back-and-forth offensive and defensive moves continuing even now, 11 months after the Russian invasion.
Russia recently has begun preparing for a large-scale offensive, through such measures as replacing its commander-in-chief and conducting joint military exercises with Belarus.
Strengthening support for Ukraine before such preparations are completed may be effective in avoiding further prolongation of the situation and the possibility of it deepening a quagmire.
At an international meeting attended by about 50 Western nations, some participating countries declared their provision of weapons to Ukraine, with Britain announcing that it would provide its Challenger 2 tanks. Also, the United States has decided to provide additional assistance worth about ¥325 billion (S$3.3 billion), including armoured vehicles and infantry fighting vehicles.
The key will be whether the provision of German-made Leopard 2 tanks will be realised at an early stage.
More than 2,000 of the German-made tanks are in operation in more than 10 European countries, including Germany itself. If the countries that possess the tanks cooperate and provide a certain number of tanks each, it will be easier to gather the 300 tanks that the Ukrainian side is seeking.
The Leopard 2 tanks are said to be lightweight, making them better suited to local geography in Ukraine than US and British tanks, and they are relatively easier to repair and supply with ammunition.
Poland, Finland and other countries that possess the tanks have already announced that they are willing to provide them to Ukraine, but Germany, the manufacturer, has postponed a decision on allowing these countries to re-export the tanks.
Germany’s cautious stance is based on the idea that it wants to avoid a war between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) and Russia. It is quite natural that a situation that could escalate into World War III or a nuclear exchange should be avoided.
However, Nato has so far gradually increased the level of arms support to Ukraine, while maintaining unity and taking care not to escalate the conflict with Russia excessively. This close cooperation among member states must not be allowed to break down.
Nato needs to encourage Germany’s decision by ensuring that all member countries are ready to work together on the issue of the provision of tanks.
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