Battle tanks for Kyiv: what will happen now?

In the wake of Berlin's decision to allow deliveries of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, a large alliance is emerging to equip the country with battle tanks and similar vehicles. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has now said that in Moscow these and other arms deliveries are viewed as "direct participation in the conflict". Europe's press examines the potential consequences.

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Spotmedia (RO) /

This is destroying Russian morale

By now even the Kremlin must realise that it cannot win, says Spotmedia:

“Russia is no longer a great power. It already lost this status last March, when the global public saw the Kremlin's dreaded tanks burning like torches or being dragged along by tractors belonging to Ukrainian farmers. Russia and Putin haven't managed to shake off the image of defeat ever since then. Even the few victories were won at such great sacrifice that no one can really boast about them. ... The agreement between Germany and the US is in itself a victory. The sending of the tanks has broken the morale of the Russian military commanders, who now realise that they can no longer win.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Russia doing better than expected

The West has underestimated Russia, economist Vladislav Inozemtsev criticises in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Russia's war against Ukraine has been going on for almost a year now, and there's little sign that it will end any time soon. It is becoming clear that Western politicians and experts have made many serious misjudgments: about the resilience of the Russian economy, the steadfastness of Putin's regime and even the capacities of the Russian arms industry, which is still able to supply the military with much of the ammunition it needs.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) /

Kremlin won't use nuclear weapons

Columnist Gwynne Dyer writes in the Cyprus Mail:

“'Winning' in Ukraine may be an existential matter for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who has staked his reputation and perhaps even his life on making a success of the invasion, but it's not a life-or-death issue for the ambitious men around him. They certainly don't want to die for him ... . So the Nato assessment that a Russian resort to nuclear weapons in Ukraine is most unlikely ... is almost certainly correct. How much of their country the Ukrainians can recapture remains to be seen, but they are at least free to try.”

El País (ES) /

Business interests guiding German foreign policy

There are economic reasons for Germany's usually hesitant stance on arming Kyiv, El País puts in:

“Germany has a long history of passivity in international conflicts. ... This is not just a political attitude, it's also a business model. ... Many German companies have invested in Russia. ... They certainly don't want Ukraine to win the war thanks to German weapons. The only outcome that would satisfy them, would be a dirty deal that restores German-Russian relations to their previous state and gives them lucrative contracts to rebuild Ukraine. They want to do business with both sides.”

Delo (SI) /

Arms industry is the big winner here

The arming of the Ukrainian army by the West has set in motion a dangerous spiral, warns Delo:

“The arms industry is rubbing its hands in glee. As long as the current Western mantra prevails that Russia must be defeated militarily in Ukraine, the arms industry will have more orders than it can fill. ... This European war, which is mainly being waged on Ukrainian territory, could easily expand. In Moscow, the West is no longer seen as a passive supporter but as an active participant in the fight.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Putin acts according to his own laws

The delivery of German battle tanks needn't automatically lead to an escalation of the war, journalist Christian Ortner comments in the Wiener Zeitung:

“Putin acts for the most part independently of how the West acts in this matter. If he thinks a step is right, he takes it, regardless of whether it was provoked or not. Neither the annexation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea - and certainly not the attempt to invade the whole of Ukraine in February 2022 - were the result of any military action by the West. Conversely, Poland delivered more than 200 heavy battle tanks to Ukraine last year - without World War III breaking out because of it.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

No sign of escape from the war trap

So much is now at stake for all sides that there is little hope of an early end to the dying, Le Quotidien fears:

“If the West abandons Ukraine, which democratic country will be the next to suffer the misfortune of a Russian invasion and sham referendums to annex the conquered territories? If Russia decides to terminate its 'special operation', which has already cost tens of thousands of lives, what future lies ahead for Putin and his clique? It's impossible for the parties involved to stop the fighting without losing face. Everyone seems to have fallen into the trap. For how much longer?”

The Guardian (GB) /

Now winning is the goal

The tanks deliveries marks a turning point in the war, write The Guardian:

“This is now, more clearly than before, a western war against Russia over the independence of Ukraine. That is not to say it is a war the west has sought. Nor that Ukraine's forces are simply proxies for western interests ... Nor are the west's aims other than defensive; they do not extend beyond helping to liberate Ukraine from its invaders. ... There is no doubt now that western attitudes have hardened and Ukraine's allies agree a pivotal moment in the war is being reached. The commitment of tanks confirms that the pivot is now towards a push for Ukrainian victory.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

United against all odds

The West's cohesion is the decisive factor, Corriere della Sera explains:

“It is not true that we have climbed a rung on the ladder to world war. ... At best, Ukraine has been given the means to hold out for another year. ... What counts in absolute terms - and what irritates Moscow - is the symbolic value, namely that the US and Europe have managed to hold together once again. And if we look back on the year that began with the aggression of 24 February 2022, it's a miracle that the Nato front hasn't stumbled over the many obstacles that have been put in its path.”

Club Z (BG) /

Diplomatic trump card

The Nato tanks will have a direct impact, Club Z stresses:

“It will be several months before the Leopards, Abrams, Challengers and perhaps the Leclercs arrive in Ukraine. And even if they arrive sooner, it will still take months to train their Ukrainian crews. But before the Western tanks can change anything on the battlefield, merely the news that they are coming could change something on the diplomatic front. ... The Kremlin now has to worry about what Russian troops will face if they repeat their failed attempt to take over all of Ukraine in the spring or summer.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Ready for action as soon as the tanks arrive

Večernji list refutes predictions that the tanks won't be deployed for months yet because the Ukrainians first have to be trained in how to use them:

“This constant scepticism is irritating, because the Ukrainians have proven that they can learn how to master modern Western warfare techniques and new technologies very quickly, and more importantly, efficiently. ... This was the case with the Javelins and NLAWs, the powerful M777 guns, the Himars and remaining MLRS, air defence systems like Iris-T, Nasams, etc. ... We have seen that up to now the West hasn't sent its most modern weapons to Ukraine without the Ukrainians having already undergone training - which takes place weeks and months before, not in Ukraine of course.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Watch out for the red lines

Jyllands-Posten urges a cautious approach:

“As expected, the next debate has already begun. Ukraine would like Western fighter jets, too. The West will be constantly forced to try to interpret where President Putin's red lines are. Western support for Ukraine has changed dramatically in the first year of the war. Germany started by supplying 5,000 helmets. Now Berlin is sending tanks. It's been like this all along. So far, Russia has not responded by escalating the war, but the Kremlin must have some red lines. The West must keep looking for them without giving in to the aggressors.”

Vladislav Inozemtsev (RU) /

The Kremlin has miscalculated and lost its way

Economist Vladislav Inozemtsev comments on Facebook:

“The Russian leadership miscalculted the consequences of 24 February and made an unforgivable but correctable mistake: the Ukrainian authorities were ready to negotiate in the first months of the war and the West really did fear an unnecessary confrontation. The situation has now changed. One can argue as much as one likes that the 'doomsday clock' has been set to almost twelve - but the fear of Russia has evaporated. Each additional month and week of the Russian adventure represents an even bigger mistake than the day it began: because then there was something to be gained by the war, but not anymore.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Scholz strengthening the Western alliance

The German chancellor has made a historic decision, says Der Standard:

“Berlin will deliver Leopards itself, not a trivial move given the burden of German history. More importantly, the chancellor has coordinated this closely with the US, with President Joe Biden: Germany will only act in lockstep with its transatlantic partner, after prior EU coordination. The EU and Nato stand firmly together. Russian President Vladimir Putin should recognise this signal: he cannot conquer Ukraine. The West will not abandon it. The caution and calm that Scholz has displayed also has its good side, beyond the emotions about war and suffering. It strengthens the Western alliance in the long term.”

Kirill Shulika (RU) /

Typically German

In a Facebook post, blogger Kirill Shulika sees Germany's late decision as characteristic of the country:

“The Germans have remained true to form. ... The task was not to stray from the overall trend on tanks while at the same time not upsetting Russia too much. According to opinion polls, the German public is still divided on this issue. So they weighed up the number of vehicles and the delivery deadlines and decided they were still far from any 'red lines'. Eastern Europe has a different approach: everything at once and the devil may care.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Fear of division

The tank pact between Washington and Berlin above all has political reasons, La Repubblica explains:

“The German 'no' carried the risk that the alliance, which militarily supports the Ukrainian resistance, would crack in a way that separated the Eastern European countries from the rest of the coalition. ... But the White House cannot allow the governments that feel most threatened by Russia to lose confidence in the Nato shield or - even worse - to carry out autonomous actions that could further escalate the confrontation with Moscow. ... The Americans seem to have convinced Chancellor Scholz with the latter argument.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Restraint needed

Historian Geoffrey Roberts writes in The Irish Times:

“Without western support Ukraine's war effort would have collapsed months ago. The continuation of the war has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian casualties. Ukraine's economy has been laid waste, while millions of its citizens have fled the country, and many more have been displaced internally. As Putin creeps closer to some kind of military victory in Ukraine, the voice of those urging western restraint will be needed more than ever. The more territory Ukraine loses, the more casualties it incurs, the greater will be the West's temptation to take yet another escalatory step towards all-out war with Russia.”

El Español (ES) /

Win at any cost

There's no turning back now, observes El Español:

“It is very likely that the deployment of Leopards and M1 Abrams, which could be a gamechanger in the war, will mark a point of no return. ... So escalation is almost certain. And in view of this scenario the West has only one option: to win the war at all cost. ... The argument that sending tanks to Ukraine could fuel an escalation is, however, invalid. ... Both British and US intelligence are warning that Moscow could be planning a major offensive on all fronts. This makes military aid for Ukraine no longer just obligatory, but urgent.”