Farcically disarmed Europe struggles to scrape together a few odd tanks to send to Ukraine
Over a week ago, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz caved to enormous international pressure and agreed to supply German Leopard tanks to Ukraine, and also to authorise the export of Leopards held by other countries to our easternmost neighbour. What has followed is a great, deafening silence, because the truth is that in Europe we have hardly any tanks to spare.
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The plan is to supply two Ukrainian battalions with a total of 62 Leopards; Germany would supply half, but in the near-term can commit only 14. Poland for its part has pledged 12, and Canada 4. Otherwise, “there are very few concrete commitments”:
Even partners who earlier pledged tanks to the Ukrainians are now quiet. This seems to confirm Scholz’s suspicion that some public promises were made only to pressure Germany…
The Swedish government pleads that on 19 January it already committed to supply 50 Combat Vehicle 90 … infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine…
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre promised at the weekend that his country would make “long-term aid payments” to Ukraine. He also announced that, as part of that package, Norway would buy 54 Leopard 2s from Kraus-Maffei Wegmann … These tanks, however, will not be delivered to Norway immediately.
Indeed, it will take years to build them.
…. The Danish military seems not to know how many tanks it has: Until now, they’ve only mentioned 44 modern Leopards, which the defence minister will not commit to Ukraine. Recently, however, the German [defence firm] FFG in Flensburg has reported that it has 99 formerly Danish Leopard 1s in its possession. These were used … in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994 and mothballed around the turn of the millennium. The Danish newspaper Berlingske now writes that the Flensburg company considers 80 of these older models to be operational. According to Berlingske, Denmark would have to budget hundreds of millions for the buyback.
It’s not easy to find reliable numbers, but to put this in perspective: Russia appears to have at least 12,000 tanks, the United States around 6,000, and Turkey 3,000, but western European nations can’t scrape together a few dozen Leopard 2s among them. The price of ending power politics in Europe and freezing the Continent in this strange enduring peace has been the outsourcing of our defence to an overseas empire. Since the Cold War, this has reduced Europe to a demilitarised colonial outpost, which is increasingly sacrificing the remains of its industry to punish Russia for the war.
The future looks pretty bleak.