Russia fumes at West’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine

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M1 Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles sit atop flat cars in a rail yard after U.S. President Donald Trump said tanks and other military hardware would be part of Fourth of July displays of military prowess in Washington, U.S., July 2, 2019. 

Leah Millis | Reuters

Russia expressed mounting fury at the prospect of modern Western tanks being sent to Ukraine, calling it “extremely dangerous” and saying previous “red lines” were now a thing of the past.

Germany announced earlier Wednesday that it was ready to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and to allow other countries with the same German-made tanks to send their equipment to Kyiv. The U.S. is also expected to announce its own intention to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine imminently.

The use of modern Western tanks by Ukraine is likely to add momentum to its efforts to push Russian forces out of occupied areas of the country, particularly the eastern Donbas region, but Russia sees the gift of tanks as further evidence that the West is fighting what it sees as a proxy war against it in Ukraine.

‘Extremely dangerous’

The Russian Embassy in Berlin called the German government’s decision “extremely dangerous” and said it “takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation.”

In a statement online, translated by Google, it said the move “contradicts the statements of German politicians about the unwillingness of the FRG to be drawn into it. Unfortunately, this happens over and over again.” 

The embassy said it was now convinced that Germany and its closest allies were “not interested in a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis, it is set up for its permanent escalation and unlimited pumping of the Kyiv regime with more and more deadly weapons.” 

Lastly, it warned that “red lines,” or limits, for both sides were now “a thing of the past,” echoing similar comments from Russia’s foreign ministry earlier Wednesday as it reacted to the prospect of U.S. Abrams tanks being sent to Ukraine, claiming the U.S. “has unequivocally stated its desire to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.”

“There is a hybrid war going on against our country, which Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov spoke about in detail just recently. Arguments about the red lines are a thing of the past,” the foreign ministry told state news agency Tass, in comments translated by Google.

“The United States has unequivocally stated its desire to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia. It is impossible not to notice the reality,” the ministry added, Tass reported.

Following Germany’s decision on tanks, all eyes are on the U.S. to see whether it will announce it’s ready to send a number of its own Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Three senior U.S. officials told NBC News Tuesday that the Biden administration is preparing to send a couple dozen Abrams tanks to Ukraine although they stressed the decision was not final.

Germany was reportedly reluctant to send its own tanks unless the U.S. did the same, and a defense summit in Germany last Friday failed to reach an agreement over tanks, with the U.S. remaining non-committal about sending Abrams. But Germany’s U-turn signals a change of heart in Washington too.

Even in the absence of a White House announcement, Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov slammed the prospect of U.S. tanks in Ukraine, describing the move as “another blatant provocation against the Russian Federation.”

“If the United States decides to supply tanks, it will be impossible to justify such step using arguments about ‘defensive weapons,'” he said on Telegram Wednesday, adding that American tanks would be “destroyed [just like] all other samples of NATO military equipment.”

‘Absurd’ and a ‘failure’

Russia has repeatedly warned the West against sending tanks to Ukraine, saying they would be a legitimate target for Russia’s armed forces, like other NATO weaponry, and would make any prospect of talks to end the war an even more distant possibility.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov commented at a media briefing Wednesday that “now we can only state that there are currently no prospects for entering the diplomatic path.”

“Unfortunately, we see a lot of manifestations of the conviction of a number of politicians, a number of experts, the military and so on, who believe that it is by continuing the war that the security of the continent can be ensured. This is an absurd belief,” Peskov said in comments translated by NBC News.

Asked about the possibility of U.S. Abrams being sent to Ukraine, Peskov told reporters, “I am convinced that many experts understand the absurdity of this idea too. It’s just that, in terms of technological aspects, this plan is quite a failure, and most importantly, it is a clear overestimation of the potential that it will add to the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” he said.

“But we have already said that these tanks would burn up just like all the others,” Peskov said.

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