Podcast “Learned something again”: No battle tanks? “This is western failure”

Ukraine does not get “Leopard”.
No battle tanks? “This is western failure”

By Kevin Schulte

For months, Ukraine has been demanding deliveries of main battle tanks in order to be able to win the war against Russia. But the West is hesitating, as is the federal government. Battle tanks would be important for Ukraine right now, so that a large-scale counter-offensive can be successful, say military experts.

First it was helmets and protective gear, but Germany is now supplying Ukraine with anti-aircraft tanks, multiple rocket launchers and self-propelled howitzers. The next step should be main battle tanks, the government in Kyiv is demanding.

The Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal traveled to Germany at the end of last week to get a battle tank commitment from Chancellor Olaf Scholz. But it didn’t do anything. For the time being, Kyiv will not get a “marten” or a “leopard” for the fight against Russia. “That’s the crux of the whole arms delivery so far. Apart from the old Soviet tanks, nothing has been delivered. I don’t know of any Western main battle tank deliveries to Ukraine. So far, Western failure can be seen there,” criticized Security expert Joachim Weber from the University of Bonn in the ntv podcast “Learned something again”.

Especially in the current phase of the war, western main battle tank deliveries would be helpful. Kiev’s troops are in the process of recapturing areas, especially in the south of the country. With modern equipment, the counter-offensives would be more promising. And the Western tanks are also more resilient: If the Panzergrenadiers are hit in a Soviet model, the tank will burn out and the soldiers will usually be dead.

German tanks more robust than Soviet ones

Those who sit in modern tanks are better protected and are more likely to survive a direct hit by Russian artillery, explains Gustav Gressel, military expert from the European Council on Foreign Relations, in an ntv interview. “If you hit a Soviet main battle tank or armored personnel carrier, they usually burn out with the entire crew. With the ‘Leopard 2’, the crew has a good chance of surviving even with a direct hit that disables the vehicle.”

The robust German tanks could make a big difference, says Gressel, because the “capability retention” when the crew survives a direct hit is enormously important for the further course of the war. Ultimately, training a tank crew is “actually much more difficult than getting a new main battle tank,” Gressel emphasizes.

At the beginning of the war, Germany had not supplied Ukraine with heavy weapons at all. A popular argument at the beginning of the war was that the Ukrainians could allegedly not handle the Western war equipment at all.

They just have to be trained accordingly and that doesn’t take that long, Gustav Gressel on ntv makes it clear. “You have to train the crews who drive the machine themselves and the mechanics and logistical staff so that they can maintain the machine and replace wearing parts.”

The training takes a certain amount of time, but “not as horrendously as is often portrayed in public,” says Gressel. “People don’t start from scratch. They don’t have to learn tank warfare from scratch, they have to be specifically trained for the ‘Leopard 2’.”

third world war? “Will not come”

Other arguments against main battle tank deliveries are that Russia could use heavy arms deliveries as an excuse to further escalate the war. On the other hand, that NATO may be drawn directly into the war. But the concerns are unjustified under international law, says Gustav Gressel. It doesn’t matter whether you deliver pistols, hand grenades or battle tanks. As long as NATO is not actively involved in the fighting, arms deliveries are not considered entry into the war.

“Germany has already delivered heavy weapons and we don’t have a third world war, contrary to all the calls. And that won’t come either,” says Gressel, making clear the federal government’s conceding when it comes to heavy weapons. In April, Berlin had turned around on the issue. Also, because at that time other Western countries had long since delivered material, especially the USA. In the meantime, Germany has sent Ukraine 15 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, 10 self-propelled howitzers 2000, 3 multiple rocket launchers and 3 armored recovery vehicles. “

Germany does not want to fulfill Ukraine’s desire for battle tanks, although “the Panzerhaubitze 2000, for example, is a much more modern system than, for example, the ‘Leopard 2’ in the A4 variant,” explains Gressel in the ntv interview. “The multiple rocket launchers are also a very modern and long-range weapon. They can shoot up to 80 kilometers, a main battle tank only shoots on sight, i.e. only a few kilometers.”

So far, no NATO country has delivered battle tanks, also because they don’t want to jeopardize their own defense capabilities. With regard to the Bundeswehr, that’s also true, says Brigadier General Christian Freuding, head of the Ukraine situation center in the Federal Ministry of Defense, to ntv. “We do not have the so-called full equipment. We cannot equip the units that we have now set up in our structure with the necessary weapon systems. We must ensure that we can fulfill, train and practice our NATO obligations.”

“Fear of the Power of Images”

Gustav Gressel considers these arguments to be advanced. In Germany there are still some tanks of the older “Leopard 2A4” type that could be given to the Ukraine. Other European countries also have “a critical mass of ‘Leopard 2′” left, says the military expert. “That’s the nice thing about the ‘Leopard’, it’s spread all over Europe. If all or at least most European countries provide a small stock of battle tanks, that can make a difference,” military expert Gressel is convinced.

Spain recently offered Ukraine the “Leopard 2A4” from German production. Germany would have to agree to a delivery, but has not done so yet.

The Federal Chancellery is also blocking a possible direct deal between Ukraine and the German defense industry. Tank manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) would sell “Leopard” tanks to Kyiv: 100 “Leopard 2A7” tanks, the newer model, for just over 1.5 billion euros. That would not help the Ukrainian troops in the current situation, because the first models could only be delivered in three years. Nevertheless, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann does not get a permit from the federal government.

“People are afraid of the power of images, they don’t want pictures of German tanks that are back in the east and making some kind of offensive move there,” believes security expert Weber in the podcast. “We should be less afraid of such images than of the consequences for history if the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine should be successful.”

“Learned something again” podcast

“Learned again” is a podcast for the curious: Why would a ceasefire be just a break for Vladimir Putin? Why does NATO fear the Suwalki Gap? Why does Russia have iPhones again? What small changes in behavior can save 15 percent of energy? Listen in and get a little smarter three times a week.

All episodes can be found in the ntv app, at AudioNow, Apple Podcasts and Spotify. “Learned something again” is also included Amazon Music and Google Podcasts available. For all other podcast apps, you can use the RSS feed.

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