Ever since the combat chain vehicle was invented, back in World War I, military analysts they have called into question its usefulness on the battlefield. The idea that the battle tanks have died has been kept alive since the end of the WWIIbut we must not forget that they were fundamental in the wars in Iraq, and that Russia has lost almost two thousand units, which is an outrage, in the Ukraine conflictwhich means that it remains the fundamental piece of the army on the ground.
But why Ukraine suddenly insists on the need to transfer Leopardo cars to him?, At what point in the conflict are we finding ourselves that makes its use so relevant?, and finally, what are the Allied reluctance to deliver these cars? I will try to answer these three questions.
Wars of attrition, which is what this conflict has become, are won by the most powerful who keep their rear guard safe, their industrial capacities more secure, and who have more of their own resources to sustain the war effort. This means, beyond the particular conditions that have occurred in this year of war, that Ukraine depends on the continuity and qualitative growth of allied aid; without this element it is lost; but with this help, which is a relatively small effort for the allies, their victory for the Ukraine, and therefore for all of us, is much more possible.
The second element to consider is that Ukraine is very suspicious that democracies – and in particular the United States, with a president who could lose the election allowing Ukraine’s enemies to return to the White House – will maintain the same level of commitment. ; that is to say, Zelensky needs a qualitative change that allows him to win the war before summer. If in the autumn we do not have a peace acceptable to all, the fate of the Ukraine could be reversed by certain Western ennui, and this is the main Russian trump card.
There is also another factor that feeds this thesis: the conviction that Putin could die in a relatively short time, and that all that can be gained in these months would be the victories that Ukraine could claim. Zelenski is aware that the allies, with a new leader in the Kremlin, would seek a compromise solution to end the war, even if it meant giving up sovereign territories. If Biden enters the campaign in 2024, with the war in an uncertain destination, Russia would be in a privileged position to maintain positions and wait for the arrival of the Republicans.
In conclusion, Zelensky needs to come into the summer with big territorial gains to be able to impose beneficial conditions for his country and for this he needs the Leopards.
The Russian offensive in Donbas is not very significant, just a few small conquests by Wagner’s mercenaries, a force without great firepower. The Russians can put their entire combat force on one point without having to worry about the rest of their line, since Ukraine does not have the ability to attack a broad front. The Leopard tanks with their sixty-two tons, their range of fire of almost three kilometers and their speed of 70 kilometers per hour, are an incredible force if and only if you have control of the airspace, since they are very vulnerable and in the battlefield need air support, which Ukraine cannot provide now, and must move very fast to avoid anti-tank defenses. But in any case, five hundred Leopards or the like in the possession of the Ukrainians would force Russia to rethink its entire offensive and to deploy hundreds of thousands of men to cover a front of almost five hundred kilometers.
However, there are very significant problems in making this support a reality. Let’s start with the simplest: availability and cost. Just as an airplane does not fly or a frigate does not go to sea without its full crew and in perfect condition, a tank is not immediately operational. In fact, for Spain, putting its fleet of 219 battle tanks fully operational would require an investment of tens of millions and several months.
In other words, to deliver cars, it is necessary to increase their operational capacity since currently credits for maintenance of armored vehicles do not reach 10% of the necessary standards. Is problem affects almost all European countries. Added to this is the fact that all armies have drastically reduced their tank fleets. Spain, for example, went from having almost 1,000 in the year 2000 to just 219 today, which means that there is not much remaining availability.
In addition, it must be taken into account that the cars that are delivered will not return, that is, they would have to be invested in addition to the start-up, about 10 million euros per car delivered to be replaced. The usual thing is to have around 20% of the fleet in full operating conditions, which would mean that the investment necessary for the delivery of some fifty units would mean an investment of about five hundred million for the Western taxpayer.
The second issue is logistics; you have to take the cars in gondola trucks to the front, since the railway lines are scarce; that is to say, it would require railways to the Dnieper, crossing the river almost a kilometer wide, and deploying trucks that can carry just one car per trip, and all this without dominating the airspace. The carnage that the Russians could do with the tanks before they are operational at the front would be enormous. Hence, so that all this effort does not remain in borage waters, it is much more important that Ukraine arrange before this hypothetical deployment of an effective air defense system. Then dozens of tanker trucks and recovery vehicles will be needed. In short, deploying five hundred tanks requires enormous logistics that Ukraine does not have and will not have. To think of a combination of North American gasoline Abrams and European diesel Abrams cars would be logistical and operational madness.
The effect can be brutal
But if the Ukrainian army manages to deploy some three hundred tanks on the Donbas front, and has enough anti-aircraft equipment to deter Russian helicopters and planes from going to the front, then the effect can be brutal. The problem with the Donbas front is that it is a 500-kilometer line and at most each force can strike at one point, knowing that the enemy will not break their lines. But if Ukraine deploys an element that moves at 70 kilometers per hour and with devilish firepower, at the first Russian carelessness, they would find Same line break that Patton got during Operation Cobra in Avranches between July and August 1944, which took him to Paris in two weeks, and he did not arrive in Berlin for a month due to logistical and political issues.
This is the great Ukrainian goal, to break the Russian line in the east, produce a general rout and end the invasion. For this, it requires the concatenation of many factors that are not simple, but in any case would be possible if the West really doubles its military effort with combat planes, defense systems, tanks, artillery and perfect logistics. Difficult but not impossible, and this is the great opportunity that Zelenski wants to take advantage of.