“Acceleration”. The word comes from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and it also comes in Ukrainian, but as we approach the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, every Western leader is thinking: giving Kyiv the means to deal with the new Russian offensive , which is being prepared by spring, it is necessary to speed up deliveries of weapons and launch heavy equipment.
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This slogan will dominate the discussions of the defense ministers of Ukraine’s allied countries who will meet on Friday, January 20, at the US base in Ramstein, Germany. The British, very advanced in supporting Ukrainian forces, took the lead in the movement by announcing on January 14 the expedition of a squadron of fourteen Challenger 2 tanks “in the coming weeks”. These will be the first western-made heavy tanks to see action in the Ukrainian theater of war.
What is acceleration? In recent weeks, says Camille Grand, a former senior NATO official and now an expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, “several back-to-back blocks” on military aid to Ukraine have been broken. First, ground-to-air defense systems, of which the United States and Germany are preparing to deliver one of the most efficient, the Patriot system.
Then came the turn of light armored fighting vehicles: there, France took the lead when President Emmanuel Macron announced the forthcoming deployment of AMX-10 RC tanks on January 4; Berlin and Washington followed the next day.
The next “bolt” concerned Western main battle tanks, which would allow the Ukrainian army to conduct offensives that would cost fewer human casualties. The Ukrainian chief of staff, General Valeri Zaloujny, estimates the current need at 300 tanks.
Reinforcements are coming
That is much. For comparison: in 2020, France had 222 Leclerc tanks of this type. Rishi Sunak’s fourteen challengers (UK has 227) will therefore not matter. But London, convinced that “a window has opened” in the conflict, with “Russia on the defensive due to supply problems and low morale,” wants to launch the movement. For Downing Street “a long and static war only serves the interests of Russia”: reinforcements are now the order of the day.
The message is addressed in particular to two countries, two countries that, for sometimes different reasons, are having great problems speeding up: France and Germany. In Paris, we believe that we have already taken a big step with the delivery of light tanks and the repeated promise that France will do everything possible to ensure “the victory of Ukraine”. For the rest, each country does according to its possibilities; France is stationing Leclerc tanks in Romania to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, but has no plans to send any to Ukraine at this time.
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