Why Emmanuel Macron does not want (for now) to deliver tanks to Ukraine

Louis de Raguenel, edited by Romain Rouillard
modified to

1:04 p.m., January 26, 2023

While Germany has just announced the forthcoming delivery of 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine, France has still not ceded a single armored vehicle to kyiv even though it has authorization to do so. If Emmanuel Macron declared Sunday “not to exclude anything” on the subject, the delivery of these vehicles is not topical.

This Wednesday, January 25 marked a turning point in Western deliveries of heavy equipment to Ukraine. To resist the Russian invasion, kyiv will soon receive 14 Leopard tanks from Germany. Norway and Spain then followed suit in Berlin and the United States also announced the shipment of 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. A wave of support in which France refuses to take part for the moment while Emmanuel Macron declared on Sunday “not to exclude anything” with regard to a possible delivery. To date, tricolor participation in the Ukrainian war effort is not relevant.

Several reasons are given. “We are not going to deliver Leclerc tanks under pressure from the Americans and the Germans,” thunders a general. Moreover, the message from the Élysée is quite clear: “France welcomes the German decision which amplifies the support that we had committed with the delivery of the AMX-10 RC”. These wheeled tanks, about thirty of which are currently heading for kyiv, should therefore not be joined by French equipment. Emmanuel Macron does not intend to go beyond. “We remain the first to have donated tanks,” recalls an adviser to the president.

“It’s a bit of an angel’s leap”

Finally, as this high-ranking officer confides, Emmanuel Macron is aware that if he were to deliver Leclerc tanks, “tomorrow Ukraine will ask for planes and then why not warships. And there we will not be able”. This is the main fear on the French side. Once the Westerners have delivered their tanks, what more can they yield to the Ukrainians? “It’s a bit of an angel’s leap,” confirms a well-placed source. In other words, once these deliveries have been made, the Allies will no longer be able to follow kyiv’s requests, for lack of sufficient stocks.

A state of affairs that could have significant consequences on the war. If deliveries of arms and ammunition to Ukraine were to decrease and the conflict got bogged down, President Volodymyr Zelensky would have no choice but to negotiate a peace with Vladimir Putin. Finally, the challenge is above all to preserve the small stock of Leclerc tanks in the armies, which number 202. This is so as not to weaken French capacities in a war where all the equipment sent to Ukraine will not return.

Also note and this is not a detail: the Nexter company has not produced Leclerc since 2008 and it will be necessary to wait until 2040 to see the first deliveries of its successor.

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