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Putin Will Be Mad: Ukraine Is Getting Tank Parts From An Unlikely Source

It is almost surprising that Moscow didn’t try to acquire the parts, as the Kremlin has seen thousands of its tanks destroyed in the fighting.

T-72 Attacked by Ukraine. Image Credit: Social Media Screenshot.

While most of Europe has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the same has not been true for much of Africa.

Many African nations have hesitated to risk their own security, foreign investment, and trade by backing a side in the conflict.

Moreover, even as some nations have sought to deepen ties with the United States and are working with the West in fights against militant groups, others – notably South Africa, Eritrea, and the Central African Republic – have maintained close trade and security ties with Russia that they don’t want to jeopardize.

Yet, a few months ago, Morocco became the first African nation to officially show its support for Kyiv.

At the request of the United States, Rabat has announced it would transfer spare parts for T-72 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

 According to the Le Journal de l’Afrique late last year, U.S. diplomats managed to convince the Moroccan government to transfer the tank parts to Ukraine “in the greatest secrecy.”

Well, the secret is out.

Russia’s Relations With Morocco

Relations between Moscow and Rabat can only be described as complicated.

Russia was the first European nation to officially establish ties with Morocco, dating back to exchanges between Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah al-Khatib (Mohammed III) and Russian Empress Catherine the Great in 1777.

During the late Czarist era, though, Russia officially supported France’s colonial position in Morocco.

Moscow’s stance changed in the 1920s, when the Soviet-sponsored Comintern supported a communist campaign against the French colonial presence in the North African nation.

During the Cold War, after it received its independence from France, Morocco became one of the Soviet Union’s most important trading partners in Africa.

The situation soured by the 1980s, however, as Moscow provided arms to Algeria.

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In recent years, Russia and Morocco have continued to maintain good relations, and Rabat chose not to participate in the UN vote that condemned Moscow’s invasion. But in recent months the Moroccan government has expressed concerns about military escalation.

Morocco’s T-72s

The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces have several dozen tanks of the T-72B/BK type, which they acquired from Belarus between 1999 and 2001.

Morocco is now one of just several African nations – including Algeria, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and Uganda – to operate the Cold War-era tank. Many of those vehicles were actually purchased from Ukraine and Belarus following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In July 2015, the Ukrainian-based Ukroboronservice reached out to Morocco for spare parts for its MBTs, but a deal apparently didn’t advance very far. Now it seems that after some U.S. pressure, Rabat will help keep Kyiv’s T-72s running.

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It is almost surprising that Moscow didn’t try to acquire the parts, as the Kremlin has seen thousands of its tanks destroyed in the fighting. Russia has already turned to Iran for drones and North Korea for artillery ordnance, while it has turned to older T-62 MBTs to bolster its ranks.

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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