PARIS – Major Western powers have finally decided to send armored vehicles to Ukraine, a move long sought by Kyiv’s leadership and which it hopes will provide a major boost to fight Vladimir Putin’s forces .

It began on Wednesday when Emmanuel Macron announced he was sending “light tanks” – AMX-10 RC armored fighting vehicles – to Ukraine. Macron decided to “increase aid” in response to “the needs expressed by Ukraine”, the French president said.

The French decision was “the first time a Western-design tank will be delivered to Ukraine. Symbolically, it is significant,” said François Heisberg, senior adviser on Europe at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

This put pressure on other countries to follow suit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday thanked France for the AMX-10 and urged other allies to provide tanks and other heavy weapons.

“There is no rational reason why Western tanks have not yet been supplied to Ukraine,” he said.

Hours later, Germany and the US announced their own moves.

AMX-10 RC armored cars stand next to the Arc de Triomphe before the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris on July 14, 2021. Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Germany will provide its Marder infantry fighting vehicle, it said in a joint statement, along with the US, which will send Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine.

None of these are the kind of modern fighting machines Ukraine really wants, such as France’s state-of-the-art Leclerc, Germany’s Leopard or the US Army’s M1 Abrams – which are more mobile, accurate and have longer range than the old ones. There are Soviet tanks – but the moves indicate that tank deliveries are no longer off-limits.

Berlin will also join in donating US-made Patriot air defense batteries, bringing the number of Patriots in Kyiv to two, after the White House announced the move last month, according to Thursday’s statement.

While the UK has not yet made a similar commitment, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said after a meeting with his German counterpart Annalena Bierbock: “We are providing the kind of military equipment that is a decisive … Russian in range.” Capable of putting punches against goals.” ,

“We will continue to talk with the Ukrainians for the next phase of our self-defense and we will continue to work with our international partners to make sure that we provide it. Tanks can be part of that. Where do they come from? Come, what the allies provide to them, of course we are working in coordination with each other.

built for the battlefield

Although the frontline has not moved much in recent weeks, the focus in European capitals is on what happens next.

For France it is “a possible Russian offensive in the spring”, an adviser to French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu said in December, echoing Nato’s warnings.

The AMX-10 RC has been used by French forces in the past as a reconnaissance vehicle and tank killer – including during Operation Barkhane in Africa, which officially ended last November – and its Mobility and speed will allow Ukraine to hit harder and faster. In small engagements. However, its relatively light armor is a drawback against the heavy Russian guns.

According to retired General Jerome Pellistrandi, director of National Defense Review magazine, the vehicle could be deployed ahead of a column of main battle tanks during operations.

“This is a vehicle that was designed in the 70s and 80s to track the progress of the Soviet Armed Land Forces. The paradox is that it will be used today for the purpose for which it was created … Because the Russians have shown that their doctrine hasn’t changed much since Soviet times,” Pellistrandi said.

According to Hesburgh, the decision to send such military equipment after deliveries of sophisticated air defense systems to Ukraine in recent months removes another Western taboo.

“A tank is built to move forward, especially this model. It is an armored reconnaissance vehicle and it is destined to contribute to helping Ukraine regain the occupied territories,” he said.

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A French armored reconnaissance tank AMX 10 RC (front) and a German Boxer armored personnel carrier take position during German-French armed forces exercises in Weisswasser, Germany. Jorn Hoffe/Getty Images

While no figures have been announced for deliveries from France, Pellistrandi estimates that approximately 30 AMX-10 RCs are immediately available to be shipped to Ukraine as they are being replaced by another generation of armored vehicles. Is.

However, there is doubt as to how much of an impact these can have on the battlefield.

“It may help, but in terms of numbers, it is not much given that Ukraine has hundreds of tanks and thousands of armored vehicles. The Ukrainians will use them well, but they do not fire as far as the Russian tanks,” said Michael Goya, a retired colonel and defense consultant.

what will happen next

The decision to send “light tanks” however marked a change in French approach after Macron announced that France would “help Ukraine until victory” during his New Year’s address.

The upcoming delivery may be just the beginning. Ukrainians are still asking France to send Leclerc tanks to Ukraine, which are heavier, more powerful and better protected than the AMX-10s. When asked whether France planned to send such equipment, a government adviser said the request was being examined and a decision would depend on whether France could give up the Leclerc tanks and Also Ukrainians may or may not have been trained to use them at the time.

But according to Hesburgh, it would make more sense for the Ukrainians to train on the German Leopard 1 and 2 tanks, which are still being produced and used in several different European countries, rather than the Leclerc tanks, which That would be difficult to maintain in Ukraine.

“Ukrainians really want Leopards,” Heisberg said.

Wilhelmine Preussen, Nicolas Winokur, Jack Blanchard, Lara Seligman and Paul McCleary contributed reporting.

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