The war between Russia and Ukraine has become more dangerous as a result of NATO’s decision to send tanks and missiles to Ukraine. In a clear indication of escalation, NATO decided to provide Ukraine with additional weapons, including Patriot missiles and Leopard 2 battle tanks. During the initial phase of the conflict, NATO supplied Ukraine with Soviet armored vehicles, ammunition, and defensive weapons. The subsequent phase included the delivery of long-range howitzers and HIMARS. Now, the country has agreed to deliver air defense systems, tanks, and armored vehicles.
Even though these weapons are insufficient to defeat Russia, they will likely replenish stocks and rebuild Ukrainian forces in preparation for a new offensive. Ukraine’s arsenal is nearly depleted and it relies solely on Western supplies. Fearing an escalation, NATO members were hesitant to provide vital weapons to Ukraine, but the intensifying Russian assault forced them to reconsider and take greater risks. The Ukrainian military is under tremendous pressure. It needs advanced weapons desperately to counter the Russian offensive. Its retreat from Soledar near Bakhmut influenced the decision of the West to provide these vital weapons.
The Biden administration has decided to send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, while the German government has offered 14 Leopard tanks. There are also discussions about providing Ukraine with additional fighter aircraft. The Pentagon didn’t want to send the Abrams tanks, but to convince Germany, it gave in. The Germans stipulated that they would only send the Leopard 2 if the United States sent its Abrams tanks.
Germany’s reluctance was in part due to its pacifist foreign policy following World War II. It refrains from sending military and weapons abroad. Olaf Scholz feared that supplying advanced weapons to Ukraine would give Moscow the impression that Berlin was actively involved in the conflict. He feared that he would be drawn into a conflict that is the worst in Europe since World War II. However, increasing domestic pressure and the fear of falling behind in Europe caused him to change his mind.
NATO agreed to increase its level of assistance for a variety of reasons. In the spring, Russia’s offensive is likely to intensify. The Russian military has fortified the Donbas region, making it difficult for the Ukrainian military to advance without long-range missiles and armored vehicles. Thirdly, the West is preparing for a protracted conflict because it will take several months for new weapons to reach the battlefield. Internal NATO politics also contributed to this decision. Germany was heavily criticized for failing to provide crucial support to Ukraine. As the leader of Europe, it cannot be seen passing up opportunities when other states are advancing.
In 1979, during the Cold War, the Leopard 2 tank was introduced and became one of NATO’s primary battle tanks. This tank is owned by more than a dozen nations, and there are nearly 2,000 Leopard tanks in Europe. Germany has agreed to send its relatively new 2A6 model, whereas other European nations will send their older models. According to Western military experts, these tanks are superior to the Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks. The Leopard 2 tanks can move faster than the American Abrams tanks and operate on readily available diesel.
These tanks will bring the Russian tanks and artillery to parity. Maksim Buyakevich, Russia’s deputy envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), warned that NATO had crossed the red line, which would result in a full-scale conflict in Europe. The likelihood of a confrontation between NATO and Russia is high.
Ukraine persuaded the West that the tanks and long-range missiles would alter the course of the conflict. However, independent security experts dismiss the notion as premature and idealistic. Ukraine still lacks the resources and firepower to expel Russian forces from its occupied territory. A few days earlier, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley also argued along similar lines.
These weapons will boost the morale of the Ukrainian army and may discourage further Russian advances. However, they are insufficient to reverse Russia’s eleven-month-long advance. The new arsenal will bring NATO and Russia closer to direct conflict. Russia may target the NATO supply line to Ukraine, which it had previously avoided.
If Ukraine goes too far, Russia will respond with greater firepower and vengeance. Moscow views the conflict as a crisis of existence. It depicts the war in terms of civilization, as Russia fights for its survival, historical glory, and future. In its view, the war was necessary to prevent the West from dismantling and destroying Russia. Popular in Russia, the Kremlin’s narrative frequently compares this crisis to the Soviet Union’s war with the Nazis during World War II. As was the case with the Soviet Union, Russia would not give up and surrender in such a conflict. Moreover, the regime of President Vladimir Putin will be threatened if Russian forces withdraw further from their current positions in Ukraine.
Moscow would not hesitate to commit additional resources, technology, and personnel to avert such a scenario. Consequently, we will observe a further escalation in the coming months. There are currently no indications of negotiations.