Nato chief hints at sending modern tanks to Ukraine

Leopard 2 tanks would give Kyiv major boost in the counter-offensive against Russia, experts have said

One of Germany's Leopard 2A6 heavy battle tanks. Military experts believe that if Ukraine was equipped with the most recent Leopards, such as the 2A6 version, it would be a major boost to their battlefield capability. Getty
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Nato's chief has hinted that the alliance could provide a major boost to Ukraine’s fighting power by sending its most modern tanks to the frontline.

Jens Stoltenberg also stated that following Russia’s aggression it was a “brutal reality” that western countries now had to invest in defence over education and health services.

In a keynote speech at the annual Berlin Security Conference, Nato’s secretary general warned that Europe had to wean itself off a “dangerous dependency” on Russian energy.

With Ukraine’s forces seeking to capitalise on the capture of the strategic city of Kherson last month, its military is planning to continue their counter-offensive to retake more territory.

A key area will be the Kherson region, south of the Dnipro river which Russia has heavily defended with a triple line of trenches and tank traps.

However, these are understood to be vulnerable to mobile armoured forces flanking them in broad swathes of countryside to either side.

The German-made Leopard 2 tank, that has seen action in Syria with Turkey’s forces, would prove highly effective in punching through Russian lines.

Mr Stoltenberg was asked about a proposal put forward by the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank that urges the 13 Nato and European countries equipped with the Leopard 2 to supply at least 100 to Ukraine.

“We have delivered a lot of advanced weapon systems and we see that this is making a huge difference on the battlefield every day,” Mr Stoltenberg responded.

“I will not go into the exact specifics of the types of weapons we are considering but allies are constantly considering different types of weapons. We are also in close dialogue with Ukraine.”

A Ukrainian tank rolls on a road near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, on November 30. AFP

Military experts believe that if Ukraine was equipped with the most recent Leopard tanks, such as the 2A6 version, this would prove to be a major boost to their battlefield capability.

“So much depends on what types might be sent, the ammunition supplied and how much support is given to operate and maintain them,” said Sam Cranny-Evans of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank.

“A basic Leopard 2A4 might not be great against a modern T-72/90M for example but the more modern types such as the A5 or A6 are very, very capable with significantly improved armour and main gun.”

Mr Stoltenberg also insisted western countries should provide even more support to defeat Russia, urging them to prioritise defence spending.

“Of course, it's always nicer to invest in health, infrastructure and education but when there is a fully-fledged war going on in Ukraine, the way to save life is to give them ammunition, to give them air defence and that's the brutal reality, like it or not.”

He added that opinion polls showed that people understood this.

“The reality is that the only way to sustain peace is to invest in defence and, rest assured, we are working hard on that,” he said.

He specifically urged Germany “to stay the course in Ukraine” and with other Nato allies “to further strengthen our collective defence”.

“These are tough times for many around the world, including here in Germany with rising costs of living, food and energy prices, but the price we pay is in money, while the price the Ukrainians pay is in blood,” he said.

The war had also shown how countries like Germany had a “dangerous dependency on Russian gas”. He advised Berlin and other European states to “be aware of our dependencies, reduce our vulnerabilities and manage the risks”.

But he also urged greater dialogue with Russia adding that a Nato hotline to Moscow had proven to be a significant help after a missile landed in Poland, killing two civilians.

“We need to continue to engage with Russia on issues like arms control,” he said.

“Russia has walked away from the meaningful dialogue, but we need a minimum of a contact.”

Updated: December 01, 2022, 6:43 PM