2023: Year Of The Leopard
2024 will be the year of the Abrams
The UAF will receive Leopard 2 main battle tanks. Having weathered a warm winter, the German government is ready to get serious about helping Ukraine win, this year.
Ukraine will receive M1 Abrams main battle tanks, too. Having weathered the political headwinds of a midterm election, the American president is ready to get serious about helping Ukraine win, next year.
Whatever else we can criticize about western political leaders, this is exactly the right schedule to deliver this kind of help: send the Leopards right away, send the M1s after, in exactly that order.
As I said last week, oversupplying too many different types of weapon works against the ally you are trying to assist. Ideally, Ukraine should get exactly one good modern battle tank, but that is already not going to happen.
Right now, Ukraine operates every variant of Soviet or Russian main battle tank since the T-62, including an upgraded version of the T-55. British Challenger 2 and French Le Clerc tanks are on their way. Each of these tanks has its own training and doctrine and chains of supply.
Adding even more diversity to Ukrainian supply chains undermines the whole entire project of helping them at all — unless you have a phased mobilization plan. That high-level orchestration will make all the difference between success and a mess.
Leopards are designed for a crew of wartime-emergency conscripts to learn and use quickly. Simpler to maintain than the Abrams, burning diesel rather than jet fuel, this is the perfect tank for Ukraine right now, right away. The UAF will want them in March, when Russia is projected to be on the offensive again with formations trained up during the October mobilization wave.
Ukraine can form armored spearheads to break the present deadlocked artillery war, destroy and defeat the new Russian forces, and/or cut Vladimir Putin’s “land bridge” to Crimea before the summer, setting conditions for Russian defeat by the beginning of 2024.
Although the mobilization wave in Russia reached deep into the countryside, there are still plenty of adult men left to conscript if the Kremlin is determined to fight on. Even if Ukraine restores control of its 2014 borders within the next 365 days, the war is not over until Russia stops fighting it.
Which is why the Abrams must follow after the Leopards, allowing time for Ukrainian soldiers to learn their use and maintenance. Ukraine has to incorporate the American tank into their formations and doctrine. Speed kills in this process. The US Army needed years to do it on their own. A measure of patience is warranted.
Ukrainians have proven infinitely adaptive, given time. Leopards will buy the time.
Regardless of the reader’s opinion on NATO expansion into Poland and the Baltics, it is worth noting here that as a result of Putin’s actions, all of them have used the opportunity to provide their Soviet-era surplus to Ukraine and replace it with NATO weaponry. Poland has exerted the most pressure on Berlin to send the Leopard. Any conspiracy theories about all this should probably center on Warsaw.
Poland is also constructing the fixed facilities needed for maintainance and overhaul of the M1s that they intend to replace their older tanks being provided to Ukraine. They will also provide this new sustaining capability for the M1 to Ukraine, as they have with refurbishing and repairing old Soviet/Russian tanks, after the vital mobilization infrastructure is finished sometime this year.
Leopards already have infrastructure and supply chains in a dozen countries nearer to Ukraine than the United States, including Germany and Poland, right now. They have to go first, for it is inadvisable to send the Abrams without those things in place.
But the Abrams will go to Ukraine, as a fleet.
Ukraine will be a de facto NATO defense partner during 2024, by necessity.
This is quite a change from a decade ago, when Germany was icy towards any potential Ukrainian NATO membership, and the idea of American weapons in Ukrainian hands was risible. In the manner of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Putin is creating the very monster he supposedly sought to prevent. I have two words for that:
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