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Western tank donations | A new line is crossed



The United Kingdom confirmed on Monday the dispatch of Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine and other Western countries are ready to follow suit with Leopard 2 tanks. A new line has thus been crossed in the war with the Russian invader. Explanations.

First, British tanks

The United Kingdom confirmed on Monday the sending of a squadron of 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine and becomes the first country in the West to do so. Other countries have expressed the same wish. Poland is considering sending 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, but is seeking permission from Germany. Finland also says it is ready to take the leap. “There are around 2,000 Leopard 2s stationed in different countries in Europe. They are not really used when Ukraine badly needs them,” explains Luciuk Lubomyr, full professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Why a German authorization?

As the manufacturer of Leopard 2 tanks, Germany has a say in the re-export of this type of offensive weapon. A few days ago, German Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said that Germany could not “hinder countries that have taken the decision to support Ukraine”. Official clearance is yet to come.

A decision on Friday?

According to Justin Massie, professor of political science and specialist in armed conflicts at the University of Quebec in Montreal, there is pressure on Germany to agree. “Germany replies that it will give it if the United States also gives tanks,” he said. However, under the leadership of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, the global “contact group” on the defense of Ukraine is meeting on Friday, January 20 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “We can think that the Americans could make an announcement with Germany on this occasion or endorse the German decision,” observes Mr. Massie.

Why do we speak of a lifted taboo?

Because such an initiative would not have passed at the beginning of the war. “We are crossing a line that we had not dared to cross since February 24, 2022, continues Mr. Massie. Since that date, the type of weapons delivered, in quantity as well as in quality, has been constantly increasing. We have gone from street fighting weapons to artillery pieces, armored personnel carriers, armored fighting vehicles and now tanks. If we had announced tanks at the beginning of the conflict, we would have feared the Russian reaction to see an escalation. »

Why tanks now?

According to some analysts, the war is bogged down with very little movement. The arrival of tanks in Ukraine would help create an unlock. In an analysis published in the Guardian, Jack Watling, senior land warfare researcher at the Royal United Services Institute, believes that with tanks, Ukraine could mount a life-saving spring offensive to retake Russian-invaded territories in the Donbass. “Russia is currently in an unfavorable position, but it is not eternal, he believes. The country mobilized 280,000 citizens last fall and has the capacity to mobilize more. »

Is it easy to donate tanks?

No. “Supporting these vehicles requires a long supply chain, whether to adjust electronic components, optics, supply, maintenance and others, observes Rémi Landry, associate professor at the School of Applied Politics at the University of Sherbrooke and former Lieutenant-Colonel of the Canadian Armed Forces. I worked in Germany on mechanized battalions. We were doing operations with an armor regiment and it was amazing to see the supply chain following those vehicles. »


Leopard 2 A6 on exercise at Canadian Armed Forces Base Petawawa in 2016

Can Canada contribute?

Absolutely, replies Justin Massie. “We have Leopard 2s and we can donate them. Canada bought them during the war in Afghanistan and modernized some of them. From my point of view, there is no use for Canada to have tanks in hangars. They are useless. There are currently no threats on Canadian territory. According to our alliances, the only real enemy on earth is Russia. It threatens our allies and intervenes in Ukraine. It would therefore be logical for Canada to provide its tanks and take advantage of this, in the medium term, to acquire new tanks. »

And what will the country do?

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not close the door to a shipment of Leopard 2 tanks. “We will look at all the necessary requests,” he said at a press briefing in Saskatoon. There are steps to take before we get there. But we are there to provide what is necessary for Ukraine to be able to beat Russia. Mr. Trudeau was echoing an article in the Globe and Mail appeared on Sunday wanting President Volodymyr Zelensky to ask Canada to provide tanks. Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre was lukewarm about this possibility. “We must support the Ukrainians against the invasion, but at the same time we must look [notre armée, qui] is in poor condition,” he said.

With The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, ForbesAgence France-Presse and the Associated Press

Western tanks claimed by Ukraine

Providing Ukraine with modern combat tanks such as the British Challenger 2 or the German Leopard 2 would mean a major leap forward in Western aid to Kyiv against the Russian invader.


British Challenger 2 on the streets of Basra, Iraq in 2003

Challenger 2

Manufacturing: British

Entry into service: 1998

Crew: 4 people

Manufacturer: BAE Systems

Main armament: 120 mm L30 gun

Secondary armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns

Weight: 62 tons

Top speed: 56 km/h

Engine: Perkins Caterpillar diesel 12 cylinders and 1200 horsepower

Breastplate: second generation Chobham armor on turret and hull


German Leopard 2 photographed near Hanover, Germany in 2011

Leopard 2

Manufacturing: German

Entry into service: 2001

Crew: 4 people

Manufacturer: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann

Main armament: 120mm L55 smoothbore cannon

Secondary armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns

Weight: 62 tons

Top speed: 72 km/h

Engine: MTU MB 873 diesel 12 cylinders and 1500 horsepower

Breastplate: spaced multi-layered armor and reinforced armor on the front turret

Learn more

  • 3600
    The German company Rheinmetall has manufactured 3600 Leopard 2 tanks of which some 2000 are in Europe. Canada has 112, 92 combat and 20 engineering


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