Leopard 2 Problems? The governments of Denmark and the Netherlands have had to reverse course on their pledge to supply Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs). Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Wednesday that the only tanks that could be provided were those leased from Germany, and it was decided it wasn’t a feasible option.
Both countries will, however, continue to commit financial resources to refurbish approximately 100 Leopard 1 MBTs that are now in storage in Germany.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has indicated that the Western allies are struggling to gather enough Leopard 2s to equip the two full battalions as promised.
In addition, only Portugal has joined Germany in pledging to send the most advanced A6 variant to Ukraine, Bloomberg reported.
Ukraine is still on track to receive between 120 and 140 modern Western MBTs in the first wave, but that falls short of the 300 to 500 tanks that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said would be needed for any coming offensive.
Russian Tank Force Cut Down
The good news for Ukraine is that Russia has far fewer MBTs in service. According to data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) this week, the Kremlin is now estimated to have lost almost half of its best tanks during its invasion of Ukraine, which began nearly one year ago.
That has included a significant number of its modernized T-72B3 and T-72B3M MBTs, and as a result, Moscow has been forced to increasingly rely on its older “stored weapons” dating back to the Cold War. Production of new tanks has been slow, and can’t possibly keep up with the losses.
Even as older Soviet-era MBTs are put back into service, Russia could struggle to maintain its armored forces on the frontlines.
“They’re producing and reactivating nowhere near enough to compensate for those loss rates.
Their current armoured fleet at the front is about half the size it was at the start of the war,” said Henry Boyd, research fellow at the IISS.
The number of tanks employed by the Russian Army on the front has been reduced by 38 percent – from an average of 2,900 tanks to 1,800. Large numbers of the most advanced Russian tanks were lost in the early fighting, due in part to Russian over-optimism as Moscow expected little resistance.
Russian troops had been led to believe that they’d be welcome as liberators and arrived with dress uniforms for planned parades.
Instead, large numbers of tanks and armored vehicles moving in convoys were destroyed on roads north of the capital city of Kyiv.
Ukraine is believed to have lost fewer tanks in the fighting – while it has replenished its stockpiles by repairing and refurbishing those abandoned Russian tanks. Yet, even as Russia has begun an offensive, the war has largely bogged down.
“On the strategic level, the war in Ukraine is currently at a stalemate,” added Barry. “We can expect another bloody year ahead, with action-reaction tactics by both sides.”
Ukraine desperately needs more Western MBTs and other vehicles for its expected spring offensive.
Kyiv has said it would need enough hardware to form 10 armored brigades, but based on what it will receive, it will have to settle for just one-quarter of that number.
“It is not clear the Kyiv has enough combat power to rapidly eject Russian forces,” Barry noted.
A bloody year ahead indeed.
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Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.