Generously, you would call the tank debate an evolution of views among Western policymakers.
Ungenerously, it is more of a debacle and certainly does not represent the united front that Western nations have been striving for throughout this year-old war.
Ukrainians have become accustomed to this pattern of Western indecision.
It follows a now-familiar theme: argue almighty, say no, then agree. It is almost included in the delivery time of the Ukrainian request.
News from Berlin and Warsaw – that the tanks can still go to Ukraine – suggests the movement of the Americans.
Remember the Germans consistently said they didn’t want their tank alone fighting the Russians. (Britain’s offer of a handful of Challenger 2s didn’t hit them.)
The Germans wanted the American M1 Abrams tank alongside their Leopards.
The Americans said no. Their tank is much larger, has fuel issues – it’s designed to run on jet fuel that isn’t readily available on the Ukrainian frontline, is far heavier, and relies on a unique, complex supply chain. Remember, in war, the success of any army and its kit is entirely dependent on a constant, smooth supply chain.
The M1 Abrams is also highly sophisticated and full of manufacturing secrets including composite armor containing a hard-penetrating depleted uranium mesh.
The battle tank is the tip of the army’s spear. If it is destroyed and leaves the wrong side of advancing enemy lines, then its secrets are compromised.
British killed in an attempt to evacuate Soledar
The Doomsday Clock is ticking as Ukraine’s war rages on
Boris Johnson is making a surprise visit to Ukraine
It is one thing to have American troops operating and, if necessary, destroying their own damaged tanks. Can I count on the Ukrainian soldiers to do the same? This will be one of many considerations for the Americans when thinking about supplying their Abrams.
Within the American debate, opinion is divided. “Why not just provide a few tanks, older less sophisticated models, to unlock the stalemate?” asked some politicians and generals.
Even the former British Prime Minister, such a staunch supporter Ukrainehe called.
“Where does the western world need to station tanks right now?” Boris Johnson asked.
“Guarding North Rhine-Westphalia?” Protecting Tennessee? Wandering the Wiltshire countryside? Let me ask the question again: what are the possible reasons for the delay?”
At the Pentagon, the spokesman would not be attracted, even if the word from Berlin was moving.
But Gen. Pat Ryder hinted at the announcement below, talking about not wanting to “review the announcement.”
And so expect news from Washington perhaps as early as today.
It is likely that any American tanks will take some time to reach the battlefield.
This will allow supply chain issues to be ironed out and allow time for training. It could also provide space to explore ways to reduce the risk of any prized tank technology falling into Russian hands.
Of course, a perennial unknown: how will Putin react? Western tanks in battle will change the picture and his unpredictable red lines are a constant concern.