While NATO member states were still reluctant to send weapons to Ukraine at the start of the war, the willingness to send heavier, modern weapons is increasing. “What Russia is doing is provoking more and more resistance and anger in the West, which means that support is increasing,” says defense expert Patrick Bolder.
You can actually see that the border is shifting a bit every time something significant happens on the battlefield, says Frans Osinga, professor of war studies at Leiden University and the Netherlands Defense Academy. “At the beginning of the war, NATO member states already supplied defense equipment such as anti-tank weapons and helmets. When the possible war crimes in Bocha and Mariupol became clear around May, outrage increased and with it the willingness to supply more advanced weapons.” Since then, for example, anti-aircraft missiles and howitzers have also been sent to Ukraine.
The Netherlands also sends advanced weapons to Ukraine. Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced last week during his visit to US President Joe Biden that two of the Netherlands will send two patriot launchers to Ukraine.
“And now the discussion about tanks is also increasing in Europe,” says Osinga. England decided in mid-January to send modern Challenger-2 tanks to the front. Subsequently, pressure increased on Germany to send Leopard tanks. The country must also give permission if other countries want to send the German tanks to the front.
In this video we show which Western tanks should help Ukraine in the war with Russia:
Germany is hesitant and has not yet promised to send tanks. “It’s a tricky issue,” says defense expert Bolder. “Not everyone in Germany likes to send them. I suspect that Germany will come along, but that Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to make it clear that it is his own decision and that he will not be put under pressure.”
Poland seems willing to send tanks if it is assisted by other countries. Germany has indicated that it will not stand in the way of Poland.
Will the West be dragged into the war?
Isn’t the West interfering too much in the war between Ukraine and Russia by sending tanks? That is not too bad, says Frans Osinga: “Tanks are not a new type of weapon system in Ukraine, they are already using them.” Only the tanks from England and Poland are a bit more advanced. “That’s why Ukraine wants them so badly. They are at a numerical disadvantage with Russia and so they communicate to the West that they can move forward with better equipment.”
The NATO member states are not directly involved in the combat operations, says Osinga. “It is not NATO soldiers who are fighting in Ukraine. European countries are helping Ukraine to defend itself. That is allowed under international law.”
According to both experts, this is where the boundary between direct and indirect involvement in the war lies. “As soon as soldiers from the West go to the front, we will cross that line,” says Bolder.
‘Fear that Russia will not leave it at Ukraine’
According to Bolder, sending heavier weapons is not only about supporting Ukraine, but also about protecting the West. “The West is increasingly convinced that if Russia gets away with this, then they won’t stop there.”
“So it depends on which explanation you give,” says Bolder: “Are we really being sucked into the war or is it good for our own safety to deliver equipment?”
Moreover, Ukraine’s allies are acting rather cautiously, he says. “You see that countries look carefully at how far they can go with the supply of weapons, without provoking Russia too much.” That does not mean that Russia is not responding to the new supplies from the west.
“There are threats of nuclear escalation. Russia has said it has been at war with NATO for a long time. It is not, but that is rhetoric to intimidate and in the hope that allies will be reluctant to deliver equipment,” says Osinga .
“It is understandable that we constantly wonder where the limit lies when it comes to arms deliveries. At the same time, if we in the West constantly express our concern about escalation, it will be a win for Russia.”
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