At this point, the rollout of new Western tanks in Ukraine is like one of those long-running “will they or won’t they” sitcoms. Except it’s not funny, and the frustration comes with a body count. Just like those sitcoms, it sure seemed like “will” was inevitable, but the “tease” was going on way, way too long.
On Monday evening, ABC News reported that 12 nations had joined together to create a pool of Leopard 2 tanks, with as many as 100 being made available to Ukraine. However, this agreement was made during the meeting at Rammstein Air Base last week, and wasn’t announced at the time because the group is still seeking Germany’s approval.
This creation of a tank pool would seem to meet the requirements that several nations had set before they would be willing to donate some of their Leopards, as well as clearing a bar that Germany had set in previous rounds of hurdle raising. Meanwhile, German defense industry giant Rheinmetall, which had previously given a long timeline for delivery of any of the Leopards waiting for repairs of upgrades, told Reuters that they could deliver another 139 tanks to Ukraine.
However, just like those 100 tanks from the consortium of nations, those tanks were still stuck behind one big “if.”
Honestly, we’re well past the point where the only thing I want to write about the Leopard 2 tank is a report of its performance in a night attack against a whole cluster of T-64s and T-72s. Instead, both the story about the 100 tanks from various nations and the story about the tanks from Rheinmetall were laced through with reports of leaders tiptoeing around the German government’s refusal to give the word.
Tantalizingly, Rheinmetall says they could send ”29 Leopard 2A4 tanks by April/May and a further 22 of the same model around the end of 2023 or early 2024.” That 2A4 model is likely the one that would be donated to Ukraine by other nations. Its armor and electronics are not up to the latest 2A7 models, but they’re more than a match for anything Russia is fielding. They’re probably a match for several of the best Russia is fielding. All at once. If everyone does give roughly the same model of Leopard 2, it will help make the logistical burden on Ukraine as small as possible.
What Rheinmetall doesn’t say is that they’re almost certainly not donating these tanks. Someone will have to pick up the tab. However, that’s probably the least of the current obstacles. The other 88 tanks Rheinmetall believes it could provide are Leopard 1 tanks. Still a capable tank, but much less of a priority because of the additional logistical burden it represents.
The probability that Germany was finally going to kiss the girl was made greater this week with reports that the German government had quietly signed off on plans to begin training Ukrainian troops on operation and maintenance of the Leopard 2. Giving the go-ahead on training, then coming back to say “no” in the end seems as if it would be just cruel.
But the WSJ story concerning the pending release of the Abrams shines a new light on everything. Maybe Germany gave the go ahead on training because they know the big announcement on tanks is coming later this week. Maybe by Friday the only thing left to worry about when it comes to Ukraine and modern tanks will be all those logistical issues of how the various tanks get divided up.
Ukraine could very likely become a testbed in which companies centered around Challenger, Leopard, and Abrams all go up against Russian tanks in combat. That’s one helluva experiment. Hopefully, someone has set aside a supercomputer to help manage the logistics chains.
Please let this be the one story were the “after” part is even better than the will they/won’t they.
On Monday evening, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s regular address to Ukraine veered away from the war and into a shakeup in his own government. Until something changes, Ukrainian officials are banned from traveling abroad unless they’re doing so on government business. Zelenskyy also warned viewers and listeners that changes in government offices would be coming in the next few days.
These announcements didn’t come out of concern over officials fleeing from the war. They followed the Sunday night arrest of of acting minister for regional development Vasyl Lozynskyy on suspicion of corruption. Lozynskyy has been accused of pocketing over $400,000 in bribes for shifting government business to prefered contractors. This includes a large purchase of generators needed due to Russia’s campaign against Ukraine’s infrastructure.
On Tuesday morning, deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine (essentially Zelenskyy’s chief of staff) Kyrylo Tymoshenko announced that he was resigning his position in a terse statement on Telegram. This is more than a little shocking as Tymoshenko has been a key member of Zelenskyy’s government and one of the most powerful politicians in the nation. However, he reportedly used a Chevy Tahoe (belonging to either the government or an NGO, the letter is a bit confusing) to take trips where he did business not connected to the government. The accusation seems minor on the surface, and Tymoshenko denies it, but he’s also resigning.
Finally, five regional governors in charge of Sumyy, Zaphorizhzhia, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk , and Kyiv areas have been dismissed, also reportedly out of concerns over corruption. The details of this are currently unclear.
Zelenskyy took office on a promise of rooting out corruption in the Ukrainian government, which at the time was rated as one of the most corrupt in Europe (though not as corrupt as Russia). If all of this is Zelenskyy holding true to that promise, even with all the distractions and disruptions of war, that’s fantastic.
However, it’s hard to imagine anything that would represent a greater threat to Ukraine at this moment than a schism in the Kyiv government. Trust in Zelenskyy’s government is the cornerstone of both Ukrainian efforts to withstand the Russian invasion and of international efforts to provide assistance. Anything that threatens that cornerstone … is scary.
Russia appears to have overrun the town of Klishchiivka, south of Bakhmut. This includes forcing Ukrainian troops out of the trenches that were on a hilltop west of the town.
Meanwhile, Russia’s reported counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia still appears to exist only in propaganda.
Video released overnight reportedly showed Russian forces using the TOS-1 launcher to bombard the town of Novoselivske, northwest of Svatove, with thermobaric weapons. The videos are shocking, but some analysts have suggested this is old footage from another area.
Meanwhile, south of Kreminna ...
This is one of those mornings where I can’t get through a paragraph without a new announcement. I had a wholly different article written before the WSJ broke the news on the Abrams … but I didn’t mind starting over. This time, the word is that Polish officials are now saying they expect to get approval to send Leopard 2 tanks on Wednesday. That may give us a date for the big announcement.
We've got a special double-barreled, two-guest show for you on this week's episode of The Downballot! First up is Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, who discusses her group's efforts to roll back the corrupting effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision as we hit the ruling's 13th anniversary. Muller tells us about ECU's short- and long-term plans to enact serious campaign finance reform; how the organization has expanded into the broader voting rights arena in recent years; and research showing the surprising connection many voters drew between the GOP's attacks on democracy and their war against abortion rights.
Then we're joined by law professor Quinn Yeargain to gape slack-jawed at the astonishing setback Gov. Kathy Hochul experienced in the state capitol on Wednesday when a Democratic-led Senate committee rejected her conservative pick to lead New York's top court. Yeargain explains why Hochul's threatened lawsuit to force the legislature to hold a full floor vote on Hector LaSalle defies 250 years of precedent and what will happen if she eventually retreats—as she manifestly should.
Markos and Kerry are joined by University of St. Andrews Professor of Strategic Studies, Phillips P. O’Brien. O’Brien, an expert in military history, explains how we got to where we are right now, what is unique about the world’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the parallels between the conservative movement’s isolationism in World War II and now.