Germany confirmed Wednesday that it was sending battle tanks to help Ukraine in the war — which Russia called a “disastrous plan” that it said was part of wider “blatant provocation” led by the US.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that his government would provide Ukraine with one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, which comprises 14 vehicles, from its own stocks.
Scholz said Germany was “acting in close coordination” with its allies — chiefly the US — with the aim of providing two battalions, or 88 tanks.
US officials said a preliminary agreement had been struck to send M1 Abrams tanks, while Poland, Finland, France and the UK are also expected to send comparable military vehicles.
It is seen as a major turning point in Western support as it is the first supply of weapons that have a mainly offensive rather than defensive purpose.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday dismissed German and US intentions with the tanks as “a rather disastrous plan.”
“I am convinced that many specialists understand the absurdity of this idea,” Peskov told reporters Wednesday.
“These tanks will burn down just like all the other ones. … Except they cost a lot, and this will fall on the shoulders of European taxpayers,” he added.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador in Washington, said deliveries of US battle tanks would be a “another blatant provocation.”
“It is obvious that Washington is purposefully trying to inflict a strategic defeat on us,” Antonov said on the embassy’s Telegram messaging channel.
Russian propagandists on state TV reacted even more angrily — calling it time to use nukes.
“Not using nuclear weapons is a dangerous trend,” said Vladimir Solovyov, a host who is close to warmongering Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We have a superiority in tactical nuclear weapons. Why have them if we can’t use them?” he added Wednesday, according to a clip translated by Russian Media Monitor.
He credited the threat of nukes for slowing the supply of tanks from the West, whom he called “Ukro-Nazis” and “Nazi dirtbags” meddling in a “holy war.”
“We’re at war with the entire NATO bloc, against 50 Satanic countries,” he said, suggesting that every country sending tanks should be “deemed a lawful military target.”
“They fear nothing,” he said, saying the only answer must be “escalation.”
Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev is among those who have also openly called for nuclear weapons to be unleashed.
Western officials who support sending the tanks have dismissed Moscow’s threats as bluster, arguing that Russia is already waging war at full tilt in Ukraine, and has been deterred from attacking NATO or using nuclear arms.
German military officials, meanwhile, noted the painful historic significance for Germany, given the horrors of World War II.
“German-made tanks will face off against Russian tanks in Ukraine once more,” said Ekkehard Brose, head of the German military’s Federal Academy for Security Policy.
It was “not an easy thought” for Germany — “and yet it is the right decision,” Brose said, arguing that it was up to Western democracies to help Ukraine stop Russia’s military campaign.
Recent opinion polls showed German voters split on the idea, and two opposition parties criticized the move.
The far-right Alternative for Germany party called the decision “irresponsible and dangerous,” saying that “Germany risks being drawn directly into the war as a result.”
The Left party also warned of a possible escalation in the conflict.
“The supply of Leopard battle tanks, which ends a further taboo, potentially takes us closer to a third world war than in the direction of peace in Europe,” the party’s parliamentary leader, Dietmar Bartsch, told German news agency dpa.
Mark Hertling, a former commander of US ground forces in Europe, estimated Leopards could be on the battlefield in Ukraine as soon as March. The US tanks, which need more logistical support, could be more than eight months away.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, made clear late Tuesday that he hoped to receive a more substantial number of tanks from Western allies.
“It is not about five, or 10, or 15 tanks. The need is greater,” he said.
With Post wires