More tanks to Ukraine won’t decide the war, but they may escalate it

Abrams main battle tanks in training.
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Germany and the US have pledged tanks to Ukraine, but critics are warning the move won’t guarantee victory – and could escalate the war further. 31 American Abrams tanks and 14 German Leopard tanks have been promised, with the Russian government quick to condemn the move as an escalation.

US president Joe Biden encouraged other Ukrainian allies to contribute tanks. He told reporters:

The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. The numbers in tank support.

In the same address he made an odd claim that the Abrams main battle tanks posed “no offensive threat”. However, a US Department of Defense news update estimated that 31 Abrams tanks is enough to provide a full battalion of main battle tanks to Ukraine. It also added that:

The Abrams tanks are the most capable tanks in the world.

Russian reaction

Russia government officials attacked the decision. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters:

It overestimates the potential it will add to the Ukrainian army. These tanks burn just like all the others.

Read on...

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In a separate statement on the German contribution, Russian officials said the move:

…contradicts the statements of German politicians about the unwillingness of the FRG [Federal Republic of Germany] to be drawn into it [the war]. Unfortunately, this happens over and over again.

Democracy Now! spoke to one German MP who warned that the German pledge followed heavy pressure from the US and went against the will of the German public:

Dire warnings

Critics in the UK pointed out that there was resistance to the idea of sending heavy armour even in the German political establishment. As the Stop the War Coalition wrote:

Fears that supplying the tanks could increase the risk of direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, were raised by Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz before last week’s NATO pledging conference.

Meanwhile, journalist Aaron Maté cited the New York Times’ view that the tanks’ usefulness was unclear, but their gifting by allies could tip the conflict into an even more deadly phase:

Global war

Critics seem to believe the German and US tanks will make little military difference to the war in Ukraine. This implies that they are a largely symbolic gesture, more about unity in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) than military advantage. If it is the case that the new armour headed for Ukraine is symbolic, the question of escalation becomes even more pertinent.

A simple question – is delivering a handful of main battle tanks to an ally worth setting off a global – even nuclear – war that could consume us all? Surely the focus of the ‘international community’, such as it is, should be on ending hostilities as soon as possible.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/US Army, cropped to 770 x 403.

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  • Show Comments
    1. And how shall we ‘end the hostilities as soon as possible’? There have BEEN attempts to make peace, but for whatever reason Putin remains altogether unwilling to negotiate or give an inch in his war goals, which amount to the dissolution of Ukraine as a state, culture, and probably population.

      Until and unless Putin can be forced to give ground on that point there can be no peace save the peace of letting him turn Ukraine into a 600,000 square kilometre graveyard. I hope that is not acceptable to anyone with an ounce of human decency in them, and stopping it does mean keeping Ukraine supplied with arms to bludgeon Putin into coming to the table.

      So I’m sorry, but you cite a great deal of the critics and hedgers on this topic, with no space given to those in favour of the move or why they might be, never mind Ukranian perspectives on it, and it smacks of this being a shoddy, enormously biased article.

      1. ” There have BEEN attempts to make peace, but for whatever reason Putin remains altogether unwilling to negotiate ”

        Indeed, the best chance of a negotiated peace was last Spring… until our own dear then-PM Bozo Johnson hurried to Kiev to put a spoke in it on behalf of NATO, who really don’t want any negotiations.

        (As an aside, ask yourself – when did you ever get to vote for membership of NATO, and how much power do you have to influence policies ? Then lets talk about democracy versus unelected multi-national entities.)

        Interestingly, Bozo has just paid another visit to Kiev, despite no longer having any UK governmental role. Perhaps even more interesting, it coincided with sackings in the Ukraine government inner circles (plus three killed in a helicoptor “accident” , alledgedly as a result of Ukrainian “friendly fire”).

        Those newly vacant posts are said to have been filled, at least in part, by NATO apointees. Well, NATO was quite happy to support a coup in 2014, which started all this, so I’m sure a direct take-over now wont worry them. I’d guess Zelensky is on borrowed time.

        Oh, and tanks. Tanks need trained crews. Tanks need suitable ammo. Tanks need lots of fuel. Tanks need repair and maintainence crews.

        And when you have tanks from a number of different sources, each type will need the above suited to the particular model.

        Russian tanks have all of the above in place, of course. The NATO rag-bag tank corps will need to bring all of the extras with them, or they just wont operate for long.

        Some reading matter : Is this Western war on Russia simply stupidity?

        Not only is there no threat from Russia that is independent of American policy, but it is also the expansion of NATO to ‘meet the threat from Russia’ that creates the very threat that expansion was supposed to meet.

        I would also suggest dropping in regularly to the Moon Of Alabama site, for up-to-date news and opinions…. and exactly why those Abrams tanks are likely to have the life-span of a mayfly.

        1. Oh piffle. Prior to the Russian invasion in February, NATO was ossifying to the point that there was a growing groundswell of support for maybe dissolving it altogether, and it’s that invasion which has revitalised NATO in the international landscape, while Russia has been expanding and invading for much the same imperialist reasons that it’s been indulging as far back as drove it to functionally absorb the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth back in the 1700’s.

          And as for Abrams tanks ‘likely to have the life-span of a mayfly’ … Thude, the Ukranians have gone so far as to thrash the 4th Guards Tank Division in pitched battle, hard enough to send it fleeing back across the border in pieces. The 4th Guards are, I will remind you, some of the cream of Russia’s armed forces, with the best standards and the best kit. Russia has been losing its elite troops and gear hand over fist to Ukranian’s fighting with a hodge-podge mix of outdated gear and Western donations. They’re hardly going to do worse for driving Abrams, lol.

          1. пише київський троль…. but misses the point, probably on purpose.

            Not a lot of point trying to debate with Rusophobes spouting the party line, but on the point of the Abrams tanks and their expected lifespan in Ukraine, don’t take my word for it. According to the American Project On Government Oversight :

            The M1 is the most expensive tank in the world, its $4.3 million price tag nearly doubling the $2.4 million cost of the German Leopard II.

            The M1’s high price does not guarantee top performance. There are several competitive tanks in production today that are produced at much less cost .

            A common element among cheaper, more fuel efficient foreign tanks is that they are equipped with reliable, inexpensive diesel engines, rarther than the costly, temperamental turbine engine of the M1 tank. Indeed, the M1 may be the only military land vehicle ever equipped with a turbine engine.

            Many of the M1’s reliability failures can be traced to its turbine engine. Every other tank in the world is equipped with a reliable, inexpensive diesel or gasoline engine. Turbines are complex, temperamental and expensive.

            Army actual use figures show that the turbine-powered M1 requires unscheduled maintenance over five times as often as the diesel M60 tank.2.
            . Furthermore, the M1 and M1A1 tanks cost three to four times as much to maintain as does the diesel-engined M60

            The turbine engine also manifests its delicate nature by requiring extra care when operating in less than ideal conditions.

            The M1’s operator’s manual specifically warns that falling leaves and/or snow can be sucked into the air intake during normal operations.

            Both can require organizational maintenance. And if the tank crew attempts to clear snow and ice from the intake system, they may damage it.

            The M1 is the only series of tanks in the world that has permanently bonded (non-removable) rubber track pads. While this saves over a ton in weight, it makes the M1 very difficult to maneuver in mud, snow or ice, according to Army test results.

            The M1’s suspension and track system suffers from a propensity for throwing the track off the tank. In particular, the armor that covers the top of the track system has a habit of trapping mud, snow and sand around the drive sprocket (the wheel which actually moves the track), which causes it to throw the track off the tank.

            The M1 is unique in suffering from an enormous heat signature.

            The heat signature (ability of the tank to be seen with infrared devices) of the M1 comes from the hot exhaust of its turbine engine.

            While the Soviets have reduced their tanks’ thermal signature by roughly 24% in recent models, we have increased our heat signatures dramatically by adopting the turbine engine for the M1.

            The M1’s exhaust is so hot that it can burn the paint off a car should it follow the tank too closely. The operator’s manual repeatedly warns that the exhaust if “very hot and can burn personnel.”

            This means that the M1 is not only easily spotted, but is also positively identifiable at extremely long ranges with infared equipment – being the only tank in the world with such a heat signature.

            So to sum up : its a costly but inefficient and maintanience-heavy tank, which shows up like a beacon on IR, allowing it to be tragetted easily.

            This time next year they’ll be rolling into Moscow… but only burnt-out ones, on the back of Russian transporters.

            1. Sounds like a tank version of the F35, state of the art technology but very high maintenance and prone to malfunction. Canada among other countries has bought it despite a devastating report done years ago on it on our once great national broadcaster. Wonder if any establishment news agencies in the US have done something similar on the M1? Thanks for the info.

    2. Red Star is correct in all that he says about the Abrams tank.
      In a military theatre like Ukr, it is about as much use as a chocolate tea pot.
      The same was true about the M777 Howitzer gun supplied by NATO (USA).
      It was said to be a game changer.
      It was designed for use in theatres like Afghanistan.
      In Ukr it was unreliable, difficult to move without damaging it, could not be maintained/repaired in Ukr.
      It was ferociously expensive and the M777 units are mostly in ruins all over the Ukr theatre.
      Another chocolate tea pot.
      Regarding the welfare of Ukr –
      It is USA/NATO that has cynically and ruthlessly used Ukr as a theatre for its proxy war with Russia.
      USA has been spoiling for a fight with Russia for many years.
      They were just looking for a useful idiot like Zelensky and an unfortunate country like Ukr in which to fight it.
      All of this has been planned for years.
      USA , UK and other NATO countries have been arming Ukr and training its Nazi forces since 2014.
      Former UK prime minister Bozo even boasts about it.
      USA always fights its proxy wars in other people’s countries.
      Recent experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Vietnam are just a few of the better-known examples.

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