Western armored vehicles to Ukraine: breakthrough or stepback?
The West's plans to send armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine could alter the balance of power for the benefit of Ukraine or they could
Several NATO member states are set to start pumping armored vehicles into Ukraine after they've spent about a year sending billions of dollars worth of weapons and munitions to Kiev.
Though Ukraine is no stranger to armored vehicles, with hundreds of Soviet-era AFVs in Ukraine's arsenal before the war broke out, which Kiev had taken after the collapse of the USSR, the West will be providing the eastern European country with advanced vehicles that would be able to confront Russia's newer AFVs.
The United States announced that it was sending 50 Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine, Germany announced that it was sending Marder IFVs, and France announced that it was sending AMX-10 RC AFVs, and though the Ukrainian requests for main battle tanks have not been fulfilled, the armored vehicles in question are the next best thing for Kiev.
The Pentagon announced that the latest military assistance package for Ukraine worth $3.75 billion includes 50 Bradley fighting vehicles, 500 TOW anti-tank missiles, and 250,000 rounds of 22mm ammunition.
Meanwhile, the French Defense Ministery said on Friday that the French-made AMX-10 RC tanks should be delivered to Ukraine within two months.
During phone talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier in January, French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris will send Kiev an unspecified number of AMX-10 RC armored fighting vehicles.
Additionally, Germany discussed with Greece the progress in Greek deliveries of BMP-1 armored infantry vehicles to Ukraine, and the vehicles getting replaced with the German Marder infantry fighting vehicles.
Athens and Berlin agreed that Athens would receive an equal number of the Marder IFVs instead of the East-Germany-made BMP-1 IFVs sent to Ukraine, which Greece had received back in 1994.
The National Interest reported on Saturday that despite the vehicles the West has pledged to supply Ukraine with are not what the latter has been asking for, they are an important addition to Kiev's arsenal, citing their smaller size and less armored body as a support unit that is meant to fight alongside main battle tanks, and even without those, they would be able to deal heavy damage to Russian tanks on the battlefield.
The issue of main battle tanks would probably be exacerbated by another NATO member, the United Kingdom, who pledged to supply its Challenger 2 MBTs to Kiev, which are not compatible with the French, US, and German AFVs.
London on Wednesday confirmed that it was planning on providing Ukraine with tanks.
"We are accelerating our support to Ukraine with the kind of next-generation military technology that will help to win this war," a Downing Street spokesperson told the Financial Times. "It is clear that battle tanks could provide a game-changing capability to the Ukrainians."
Moreover, Polish President Andrzej Duda said earlier at a press conference in Lvov that Poland would transfer a company of Leopard tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition.
"A company of Leopard tanks will be transferred within the framework of the international coalition. Poland already made such a decision," Duda said, as broadcast by Polish television.
The President underlined that Warsaw must check tick various boxes to ensure that requirements are met before it transfers the tanks to Kiev.
Poland has been a major supporter of Kiev, delivering more than 240 T-72s to Ukraine since the outbreak of the war.
According to the National Interest, Bradleys, Marders, and AMX-10s joining Kiev's forces on the battleground mark a shift in how the West is arming Ukraine after it has spent the entirety of the war only sending Soviet-era equipment from the reserves of post-Soviet republics and NATO missiles and artillery.
The shift will throw Ukraine into the clutches of Western munition suppliers, whose munition is much more expensive than their eastern counterparts. "There are reasons to be concerned that the introduction of three similar yet different vehicles may strain the Ukrainian military's logistical network," the magazine said.
Reportedly, the strain in question will stem from the fact that no two NATO weapons systems have the same logistic requirements, which will cause issues in communication and logistical coordination in Ukraine, which would take from the positive impact of the new and advanced vehicles the West is giving Ukraine.
"The introduction of the three new fighting vehicles will require three different maintenance, repair, and overhaul supply chains," the author wrote, underlining that Ukraine's crews would have to undergo three different training processes and Kiev's forces would have to adopt three different sets of operating procedures, not to mention the three munition supply chains that Kiev would have to turn to.
The magazine does not expect Ukraine to use two or more of the three vehicles in the same unit in order to avert the confusion this would cause. However, it projected that they could operate in the same area, putting further strain on management costs.
Touching on the matter from a logistics standpoint, the author stressed that it was best to keep weapons systems and vehicles' differentiation to a minimum in order to fulfill operational requirements and increase the effectiveness of logistics and coordination.
However, on a positive note, according to the article, three countries giving armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine would open the door for more NATO-affiliated countries to give Kiev a wider array of equipment, weapons, and systems.
Furthermore, this is an opportunity for France, Germany, and the United States to see their weapons operating on a battlefield, as they can now see them taking part in military operations on a modern battlefield without the need for a direct war, allowing them to see their effectiveness and make adjustments accordingly while also giving them the opportunity to optimize them as best as possible on the drawing board.
"NATO countries should work together to provide vehicles and weapons systems that give the tactical edge needed to win the war, not tax the Ukrainian military's logistics infrastructure with varying logistical and maintenance requirements," the National Interest underlined. "[I]t's important to strongly consider logistical problems and opportunities to maximize support with minimal expense," it concluded.