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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

‘He Lies’: Don’t Believe Anything Putin Says About Western Tanks

As Kyiv’s counteroffensive progresses, Western tank casualties should be expected. Russia will use any one instance of destroying a Ukrainian tank to suggest that the country is performing better than it is in reality.

A Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) is pictured during a live firing exercise in Grafenwöhr, Germany. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
A Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) is pictured during a live firing exercise in Grafenwöhr, Germany. Exercise BAVARIAN CHARGER was the first of three large contingency operation exercises being undertaken by 20th Armoured Brigade between May – October 2013. Contingency Operations training is known as Hybrid Foundation Training or HFT. The aim of this exercise was to train the 5 Rifles, The Queens Dragoon Guards (QDG) Battle Groups and 1 Logistic Support Regiment in combined arms manoeuvre.

Ukraine since January has been anticipating the arrival of Western main battle tanks pledged by the U.S. and other NATO member-states. American M1 Abrams tanks are on their way, while British Challengers and German Leopard 2s are now rolling toward the frontlines of the fight against Russian invaders. 

Considering the abysmal performance of Russia’s own MBTs, the Kremlin is worried. In fact, some experts estimate that Moscow has lost over half of its modern tank fleet. Its forces have recently put to use antiquated Soviet-era MBTs in an attempt to address Russia’s shortages.

As Ukraine’s counteroffensive plays out, Moscow will do whatever it can to discredit the Western tanks in Kyiv’s arsenal — and to take them out.

Russia Fears Western Tanks

Russia is so desperate to diminish Ukraine’s tank arsenal that it has offered high bounties to soldiers who destroy or capture Western MBTs. According to Reuters, a Russian company disclosed that it would offer around $72,000 in cash to soldiers who fulfill this task. While Moscow claims to have taken out hundreds of advanced Western tanks, the Kremlin often exaggerates military claims. Last year, Russia claimed it destroyed more American-made HIMARS rocket launcher pads than were ever delivered to Ukraine in the first place. Kyiv also exaggerates claims, making it difficult for news outlets to verify the footage and frequent statements that circulate on social media at all hours. 

Don’t Trust Russian News Without Verifying

Last week, Russia’s Ministry of Defense released a video that supposedly showed the destruction of a newly delivered Leopard 2 tank in Ukraine. In the video, the aftermath of an attack is seen, with huge flumes of gray smoke rising above what appears to be an armored vehicle. According to the Kremlin, the video was recorded in the Zaporizhzhia region of Eastern Ukraine. 

While this video has yet to be verified by an independent source, the destruction of a Leopard is possible. However, Moscow frequently publishes falsified footage. Just last week, Russian news outlets claimed the demise of additional Leopard tanks, but footage showed that the “tanks” were actually just some American John Deere farm trucks. 

As Kyiv’s counteroffensive progresses, Western tank casualties should be expected. Russia will use any one instance of destroying a Ukrainian tank to suggest that the country is performing better than it is in reality. In fact, Moscow is currently using very old and outdated MBTs in the war, including T-55s and T-62s. These tanks, which should be relegated to museum duty at this point, are clearly no match for the advanced Western tanks that continue to pour into Ukraine from NATO members. Basically, take the information from Russian state news outlets regarding tank warfare with a giant jar of salt. 

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

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