How Germany’s tanks could make peace more likely
Improving Ukraine's battlefield strength can ensure a prolonged stalemate
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
This is a mood to consider while assessing the potential impact of the recently announced deliveries of German, British, and American-built tanks to the Ukrainian armed forces. Enthusiasts like former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claim that this will finally turn the tide in Kyiv’s favour, while critics warn that it risks further escalation which will unnecessarily widen and prolong the conflict.
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Most likely neither of those assessments is quite correct. Firstly, it is worth bearing in mind the significant time lag between announcements and fulfilments, so at this point it is not at all clear when the first tanks will arrive in Ukraine and how long it will take to train local crews before the first Leopard, Abrams, or Challenger will effectively join the frontlines. Secondly, there is the matter of numbers: the US seems to be determined to deliver up to 30 tanks, the UK 14, Germany 14, the Netherlands 18, Poland 14, and Norway 8. Taken together that is 98 tanks, which would be equal to a little less than two US army battalions. While it is unclear how many tanks Russia can field in the coming months, the number is most certainly in the thousands — and that is an estimate by Ukraine-friendly sources.
The argument, of course, also applies in reverse. It is equally unlikely that 100 tanks will cause an immediate escalation in the conflict, and Russia still has other cards to play should it decide to cut off the few remaining energy systems going into Europe — which will probably face a diesel shortage after a new round of sanctions on refined products starting on 5th February.
It is, however, an important symbolic change. Indeed, it signifies that Germany has given up its initial stance of assuming a quick resolution of the conflict and will now be less obstructionist when it comes to the delivery of advanced weapons systems to Ukraine. Simultaneously, whether by genius or luck, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has tied that willingness to the implicit condition that Berlin will act only if the US does so first, which allows him to share part of the responsibility and ward off pressure from his coalition partners, who are much more eager in their support for Ukraine.
Assuming that the Kremlin leadership is prone to miscalculations but not entirely irrational, it is not implausible to suggest that a relatively inconsequential number of tanks could have a much larger impact politically. A small number of Western tanks will not make a recapturing of all lost territories possible, but it also limits the potential for future Russian offensive operations in key areas, where 30 Abrams and 30 Leopards could most definitely make a tactical difference.
An extended stalemate may trigger a realisation on both sides that the frontlines will not significantly move in either direction. The extent to which such a scenario will materialise will depend on whether Russia can launch a renewed offensive before Western equipment is ready for action, and whether leaders in Berlin and Washington signal to Moscow that this is not a one-off, but rather the beginning of a new level of sustained military support.
It is a grim possibility that only after a prolonged and static conflict, with neither side hopeful of imminent total victory, will peace talks become likely.
Good news is that Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock which manages some $10 trillion dollars of assets, has signed a deal with Zelensky regarding the rebuilding of what is left of Ukraine once peace is allowed. I’m sure that lessons from Iraq have been learned and that corruption will not mar this initiative.
Looks like he will get Russia’s $300 billion then.
Sad for most Russians.
Larry Fink is the face of Corruption
“Simultaneously, whether by genius or luck, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has tied that willingness to the implicit condition that Berlin will act only if the US does so first, which allows him to share part of the responsibility and ward off pressure from his coalition partners, who are much more eager in their support for Ukraine”.
Saying this is genius would be to flatter Scholz, and it definitely wasn’t luck as there was a calculus I believe…I have read elsewhere that Scholz’s demands for for these conditions infuriated the White House. However, at this moment, it’s worth more to the Americans to maintain a united front rather than publicly have it out with Germany about its ongoing failure to pull its weight in terms of defence/security so they conceded and let Germany revert to hiding behind Uncle Sam.
Scholz may have correctly identified the White House’s priorities and used them to his advantage in this particular situation…but it doesn’t do anything for the longer term, more fundamental issues of Germany’s unwillingness to play a leadership role within Europe, the disaster of its mercantilist foreign policy, its die-hard beliefs (particularly among the SPD) that it can dance at both Western and Russian weddings (to steal a German idiom…), its attitude that doing nothing and prevaricating involves no risk, it’s reputation as an unreliable ally, now all but cemented…
I saw an excellent meme yesterday depicting Scholz and the Polish President Duda. Duda is saying “Good news, Mr. Scholz. We have found your [email protected]”. Scholz’s reply: “I don’t want them”. If the cap fits…
Good points, but any discussion of Germany at war has to take into account its history.
It does, but Germany needs to try and get over some of its hang-ups there. It is a completely different country now to the one it was back then and this constant angst about the past is increasingly coming over as somewhat performative and as an excuse to get out of heavy lifting/risk-taking…i.e. the qualities of a true leader.
No, that’s a mask to hide behind, an excuse deployed to hide their agenda of looking out for Germany alone – exemplified by the fact that the Japanese aren’t using that excuse anymore. As Katharine says, no one will trust them as a reliable ally now – and that’s a silver lining to all this. Germany’s comeuppance is underway as Eastern European countries ally to create their own joint agenda.
I think few need to worry about Germany attacking anybody with its paltry army who do not like to fire those horrid guns. But they do make good kit that ought to be given to those who will fight using horrid guns.
So Putin was right, it’s NATO v Russia
That’s why NATO invaded on 24 Feb, obviously.
Nope, if it was NATO v Russia the Russians would be driven from Ukraine in a matter of weeks. Just because a country buys arms from another doesn’t mean that third party is a combatant in the conflict
For the second time in 85 years, german panzers will attack Russia. This won’t end well, and there is nothing to cheer.
I love peace, I hate warmongers, and I think that war advocates should be conscripted and sent into the trenches
Peace is better than war. How much propaganda do you need to suck to avoid understanding this simple fact ?
“German panzers will attack Russia” – this is wrong on multiple levels. German panzers are being sent to the Ukraine with the aim of fighting Russia…who, let us not forget, started this war of aggression without provocation. Comparing it to WW2 is logic of a fanstastically skew-whiff nature.
Defeating Russia decisively now is, in my view, essential to securing a longer-lasting, more wide-ranging peace. The West was far too supine with Putin for far too long – and look where it got us! Russia needs to be put right back in its box…which will hopefully deter China from messing with Taiwan.
So the logic is that it’s better to escalate in order to achieve a more convincing peace than to settle for a lazy one which just sets the scene for more, possibly worse trouble down the road.
“Russia…who, let us not forget, started this war of aggression without provocation.”
Simply astonishing that anyone of moderate intelligence could believe or say such a thing.
It is simply astonishing that anyone of moderate intelligence wouldn’t say such a thing.
And it’s simply expected that you show no evidence of anything to the contrary.
And even more predictable you are trolling russia threads again.
Here you go. ANOTHER list, did you miss the last one? For the sake of variety different links than last time.
a former CIA analyst who specialized in the Soviet Union. “Everyone understands that at some point there will need to be a negotiation to bring this war to a close, but I think the tension within the progressive community comes to when and how that diplomacy actually takes place,” says Duss. McGovern stressed that U.S. policymakers must understand Russia’s motivations, saying Russia sees the eastward expansion of NATO as threatening its core interests akin to how the United States viewed the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s. “We need to go back and figure out how this all started in order to figure out how to end it,” says McGovern
“It concerns me a lot that many so-called progressives in the United States are supporting this line by the Biden administration to push Germany more and more into this proxy war,
American progressives?? What the ones funding all the stuff we don’t like? The ones funding just stop oil? Those progressives?
Yet less than one year after launching the Partnership for Peace, the Clinton administration, with little debate or public preparation, introduced the goal of NATO expansion.
Clinton? With little debate?
There’s a surprise.
Info on asov, who caused the trouble in East ukraine with aggressive ‘Ukrainisation’:
‘The Azov Movement is a far-right nationalist network of military, paramilitary, and political organizations based in Ukraine. The paramilitary Azov Battalion component formed in 2014 before integrating into the Ukrainian National Guard as a Special Purposes Regiment. Following integration, Azov Regiment veterans broadened the movement to include a political wing, National Corps, and a paramilitary wing, National Militia. It is notable for its recruitment of far-right foreign fighters from the U.S., Russia, and Europe, as well as extensive transnational ties with other far-right organizations. In 2022, the movement came to renewed prominence for fighting against Russian forces in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Mariupol.’
‘In 2005, Andriy Biletsky recreated the Kharkiv-based Patriot of Ukraine (PU) to champion white nationalist, anti-immigrant, extreme-right ideas in Ukraine. PU had previously been active during the 1990s and early 2000s.’
‘Biletsky and several other PU members formed the Azov Battalion in response to this call.’
You want more?
I would add, to everyone that’s not a Martin logan troll. That the quote at the start:
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function
Is a good one, for the sake of balancing Mr logans trolling attempts I have deliberately pushed him the other way. The brookings link above is a pretty balanced sensible analysis of both the pros and cons of nato expansion. For realists.
And the Vagner group, which has sent 40,000 prisoners to their deaths in pointless attacks on Soledar is not “extremist?”
Fact is, every nation has “extremists,” or haven’t you noticed?
The issue is whether one nation has the right to destroy another because of a condition that prevails in…every nation.
IOW, your position mandates total war against every nation on earth.
By who exactly?
Lmao. Hi troll. Are you enjoying the ‘evidence’ you asked for?
Own goal–or hoisted on your own petard.
Your quoted arguments are nothing more than warmed over Donald Rumsfeld.
Another state somehow is “threatening” us, so that gives us the right to invade.
No actual attack, but the very fact that this regime exists, and doesn’t kowtow to us, means we have to attack.
I hope you and Wolfowitz will be very happy together.
Yeah I still don’t see an own goal apart from on your side of the pitch. Original comment was, that russia started with no provocation. At which point the people wanting a sensible debate got jumped by requests for ‘evidence’ from you.
Well, there’s your evidence.
The “provocations” you cite are no threat to Russia.
Indeed, there was never a threat to Russia from a smaller Ukraine.
Just warmed over Rumsfeld.
It’s actually a Ukrainian thread. Not that that matters. We believe in free speech round here.
Well it’s discussing russia too, jesus christ I didn’t realise there would be a test. Pedantic. In my head it’s us v russia.
The fact that you exclusively label it as a “Russian thread” tells us everything we need to know.
You’d also do well to learn some manners.
I haven’t got any for people that can’t deal with realism.
Do object to balancing the debate?
Do object to me providing the sources mr logan requests everytime?
Do you object to the fact the us might not have helped the situation? Would you like me to entitle it properly next time? The thread discussing ukraine and Russia and the US and nato? Or the thread discussing the proxy war between the US and Russia? Which do you prefer? Original commenter logan jumped was specifically discussing russia. Moron.
So you’re basically a bigot then if you have no respect for those with different opinions and refuse to listen to other views. That’s really very sad.
We’ll see who’s “realistic” when this has all played out.
Reminder: I offered a UK£100 bet the Ukraine will come out of this fine in 25 years and be in a far better state than Russia. Still no takers. Funny that.
Well I’m an obnoxious millennial that really should be doing my paper work. So more accurate would be obnoxious procrastinator at the moment. Actually I’m afraid by refusing to consider the other side of the argument, by repeatedly attacking me for sharing what are very reasonable opinions from legit sources you are the one failing to respect the opinions of others and listen to other views.
Most people aren’t that f*cked up they would bet on the outcome of a horrific conflict that has seen great loss on both sides. Most intelligent people wouldn’t be stupid enough to say they know what the outcome of a complex and escalating conflict will be.
Sadly, your head isn’t actually observable reality.
Easy mistake to make, though.
If Russia was worried about the eastwards expansion of NATO, her solution has dramatically backfired, with Sweden and Finland moving NATO’s boundaries to the East and the Baltic now a NATO lake.
Mate it’s not about choosing a side. It’s about a sensible discussion.
Read my comments again. I clearly say there is an article about the Pros and cons of nato expansion. Realist perspective. Let’s look at the whole thing not just the Americans propaganda on the subject. That’s the point.
Once again, Mr logan disputed the fact russia was provoked, he asked for evidence that they had been provoked. I have happily supplied. It will do no one any good pretending the us didn’t have a part to play in all this.
Those are not “provocations,” any more than the countless objectional things done in every nation on earth is justification to invade.
Only Wolfowitz would disagree.
There is always a cohort to argue that NATO or the West or the US has been provocative and so Putin was quite entitled to invade the Ukraine or that like Germany at the time of the Czech crisis they were entitled to invade to protect ethnic Russians from discrimination. Of course, this relies on the idea that Ukraine is to be perpetually neutered and not permitted to exercise its own political preferences in respect of foreign policy and no encouragement should be given by the West to any western sympathy that Ukrainians might display while Russia should be able to interfere to its heart’s content in the Ukraine.
The West did little to stop the Russian’s annexing Crimea and the next step followed. But it is always the fault of the US, the West, NATO. Like an abusive husband Russia always says “Look what you made me do!” and there are always mates to say you wouldn’t get attacked if you hadn’t been provocative and smiled at that handsome stranger.
BANG ON THANKS !
I don’t remember any shots being fired into Russian territory by the Ukrainians (or anybody else for that matter)
Wow Bruce! Let the ad hominem brutality roll – Putin would love your tactics!
So we need war in order to have peace, and the warmongers are actually the peacemakers? Truly Orwellian.
Yes to the first part of your 1st sentence – the second part is something I didn’t say, that is pure interpretation on your part. What I’m saying is that – counterintuitive as it might seem – deescalating and aiming for a lazy peace deal is just going to screw us all over long term. More pain now for greater gains and more stability further down the road.
The justifications for war have always been the same. Has there ever been a war started or escalated where that very same argument wasn’t the primary justification? Even Hitler claimed that he was bringing peace and order to the world, and that ‘more pain now’ would result in a brighter future. When you find yourself singing from the same hymn book as the greatest warmongers in history, it should give you pause.
Well, FDR and Churchill also claimed that, so maybe ALL sides claim that, and one just has to note which ones ethnically cleanse and attack cities.
But you knew that already.
Katherine is not the warmonger here. Putin is. It’s really not difficult.
Yes there is a childlike logic and simplicity to what you say.
If you want peace you have to prepare for war unfortunately. If Ukraine rolled over now and gave Putin everything he asked for, do you believe that they could trust Russia not to do the exact same thing in the future? Remember they already had written treaties promising to respect their territory, and the Russians had already carved off Crimea and parts of the Donbas in the recent past
I agree with the “prepare for war” part. I was objecting to the actual ‘go to war’ Orwellian doublespeak. And can you not imagine a scenario where a defeated and humiliated Russia might actually be more likely to take revenge in the future? Why do people constantly buy into this nonsense that a proud country the size of Russia with all of its vast resources will simply fall into line once we teach them proper manners? How did it work out after WWI when we taught the Germans proper manners?
Problem is it took total German surrender after ww2 to teach them, as you call it, proper manners.
Unfortunately Rusky s**m needs to be taught the lesson before even progressing on the road to civilisation.
There is no point waiting for them to invade other countries.
Germany remained a unified state.
Entirely different outcome.
No provocation? Oh really?
Indeed, the 500,000 Ukrainians that the CIA bribed to stage Maidan was one of their best operations.
Remember what Putin knows:
Nothing happens by accident, or by the will of the people.
It’s always either the CIA or FSB.
Now say a prayer to the Great God Manichee…
Bribing half a million people must take quite some organising. And no one noticed until later!
All Ukrainians seem to have got from being bribed is warfare and death. How much is the CIA supposed to have direibuted, evan USD1000 each would have come to quite some hefty sum.
The CIA got value for money.
It’s destroyed the Russian army, and Russia in the process.
Take your flower-power bullshit and sell it somewhere else.
You talk the talk
Ukrainian legion is recruiting (so is Wagner group)
Pick a side, and walk the walk.
German panzers won’t touch Russian terrain this time, therefore it’s completely different I’m afraid
>won’t touch Russian terrain
Don’t you think Russians may have a different view on that? Or Ukrainians might have slightly different plans? Or both?
It’s incredible how easy many of you take this. The planet is in real danger and the politicians are still playing this game “who are good guys who are bad guys”. Like being good in your own eyes protects you from something. Huh.
I can’t predict the future, but I’d bet my house that the Ukrainians aren’t going to launch an invasion into Russian territory. They require vast amounts of western help simply to hold on to their own land, why on earth would they attempt to invade a much more powerful neighbour?
Try virtue signalling about your love of peace to the Ukrainians?
War requires two sides. But if one side insists on war what can the other side do? Peace arrives when greed subsides (never) or when a strong power asserts itself. The US has been that stronger power until just a few years ago. “Peace is our Profession” is a motto not quite as operative recently.
You are nothing more than Russian stooge.
Loving peace is great, but on what terms?
Genocide of Ukrainians?
Your idea of peace was tried by Chamberlain in 1938 with Germany.
Did it end well?
I cannot fathom why Western commentators are viewing the certainty of extended, prolonged and escalated carnage with such satisfaction. With every move, the West is confirming what Russia has from the beginning said about the reality of the conflict. Statements which the West only yesterday dismissed as ridiculous Russian talking points are today casually confirmed by the likes of Biden, Poroshenko, Merkel, Hollande, Baerbock, Scholz, Macron, etc.
Moscow by Christmas!
Indeed, Russia predicted that NATO would destroy them.
So now that the Russians have attacked, NATO is destroying them.
“Look what you made me do!”
May only be 98 tanks confirmed for now, but may well have a multiplier effect on Russian forces morale. It’ll ripple. And if they get thrown in desperation before the Tanks arrive in ever greater numbers against solid, canny Ukrainian defences the Russian position may further unravel before they even see a Leopard. Let’s hope so.
Lot of rather heated debate below that’s descended into abuse.
Anyway, as people said on here a while ago, it’s probably going to gravitate to a stalemate as this article says, and then negotiations will take place.
But the outcome will be an independent Ukraine, which will be able to join the EU. It’s a worthwhile outcome even with the huge number of deaths given the victorious Russians would have culled the Ukrainian people of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of dissidents, journalists, politicians, ex-army, students, et al.
We made the same sacrifice of people and infrastructure in WW2 to preserve our freedom, and it’s been well worth it.
Pretty much the last nail in the coffin of Putin’s Russia.
Most of the videos we’ve seen of tank “kills” are misleading. They involve attacks against just a few vehicles.
The offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, however, showed that massed attacks by state of the art tanks are still very devastating, if supported by masses of mounted infantry and good artillery. The Ukrainians will soon have several battalions of them.
The vaunted T-90s were mostly for show at parades. The Russian tank factories in the Urals produce much older and less capable machines for export to India, etc. Whether they can even switch to producing T-90s–or have the western parts to assemble them–is questionable.
The next batch of 150,000 “mobiks” are thus Dead Men Walking.
So, the big question is: can Putin call up another 300,000 “mobiks”–and will they show up?
Interesting analysis. I’m not certain I agree, but this is the sort of contrarian take that I really value Unherd to provide. Thanks.
Just a tangential observation, but reveals of tank stocks in assorted European nations does rather show how successful the manufacturers of said tanks are at selling eye-waveringly expensive armaments which are essentially useless. How or where would Spain, for example, ever actually send into battle dozens of tanks? An invasion by France or Portugal? The proof being that they don’t even bother to maintain them so that they can be used without months of preparation! Jolly useful now that they can give, or sell, them to an ally who can make use of them of course, but hardly what they were purchased for, surely.
The source cited in the article says the Russians can field at most 2,000 tanks from storage, many of them up to 60 years old.
Ther’s a way to measure the difference Western armored vehicles can make. In the Battle of 73 Easting, in 1991 in Iraq, 3 armored cavalry troops consisting of 27 M-1 Abrams tanks and 36-39 M-3 Bradley IFVs defeated 55 Russian made tanks and 45 other armored vehicles in just a few hours. The US soldiers had minimal losses, no tanks and 1 Bradley.
You can bet that the Iraq troops were better trained than the newly conscripted Russian or those poor prisoners hoping to survive as arms fodder.
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