Ukraine: President Zelensky announces coalition of modern tanks
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The promise of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine may have been a “symbolic gesture” to pressure NATO allies to deliver their own tanks, according to a former US marine living in Ukraine. John Sennett lived with his wife in Kyiv before moving to the west of the country as Vladimir Putin stepped up Moscow’s campaign of indiscriminate attacks on population centres around the country.
The US and other Western allies have promised Kyiv tanks, namely Challenger 2s from the UK, Leopard 2s from Germany and other European allies as well as 31 M1 Abrams from the United States.
However, Mr Sennett believes that the Abrams could be of limited use to Kyiv, suggesting they were promised to push Germany into sending its more available Leopard 2s.
“The Abrams thing was a symbolic gesture to get Chancellor Scholz to send Leopards, that’s really what it comes down to. I think the Abrams will look great in the victory parade,” former US marine John Sennett told Express.co.uk.
He added: “On a practical level, maintaining 31 of those things, with the amount of maintenance and logistics involved, I wouldn’t want to be the guy in charge of that tank command because it is going to be very difficult.”
He pointed to different supply chains which would need to be set up to maintain the tanks which use different parts and ammunition to what Ukraine is currently uses.
Germany’s Leopard tank, on the other hand, is the most popular tank in Europe, meaning supply chains already exist in countries which border Ukraine, making the Leopards easier to supply and maintain.
“I think Biden, or whoever in the Pentagon, did it so that the Germans would say: ‘Ok, we’ve got to send our Leopards,'” Mr Sennett added.
Along with the 31 Abrams tanks, the UK has promised 14 Challenger 2s to Kyiv, expected to arrive as early as next month. From Europe, Germany has promised 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks and has allowed other countries to re-export that tanks. There are around 2000 Leopard 2s operating in Europe.
Berlin’s stated goal is to eventually provide Ukraine with a total of two battalions, or 88 tanks.
Mr Sennett worked with aviation ordinance on fighter jets during his time in the US military, when asked about sending F-16s or other Western jets to Kyiv he said: “The Ukrainians are saying ‘that’s what we want because that’s what we think will get the job done.'”
He said that the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the “Warthog”, could also be a good choice of fighter to send to Ukraine.
The A-10 Warthog is a close air support fighter which was developed in the 20th Century specifically to wreak havoc on Soviet tank columns pouring into Western Europe in the event of a confrontation with NATO.
In a December 2022 interview, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he requested 100 A-10s from the US at the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February of that year.
However, he was told the request was “impossible”, according to reporting by the Washington Post.
The sending of tanks to Ukraine comes as the momentum on the battlefield appears to have slowed on both sides. Following stunning counter offensives in the areas around Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south by Ukrainian forces last year, the battle lines have become more static.
Recently, fighting in the Donbas has centred around the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk, where Kyiv’s forces have been battling human wave attacks by the Russian army as well as the shadowy Wagner mercenary group.
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Although Moscow’s forces have been gaining some ground, they have done so at an enormous cost – Ukraine is also believed to be suffering high numbers of casualties there.
“Nobody will give away Bakhmut,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a meeting with European Union leaders. “We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress.”
“If weapon [supplies] are accelerated, specifically long-range weapons, not only will we not abandon Bakhmut but we will also begin to remove the occupiers from the Donbas, which was occupied since 2014,” Ukraine’s President added.
With the delivery of Western tanks, Kyiv likely looks to turn the tide in the east of the country and cut Russia’s land bridge between the Crimean Peninsula and mainland Russia. Something which Mr Sennett says will likely require “heavy armour and decent air support”.
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