Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov is optimistic that Kyiv will eventually acquire Western tanks and fighter planes to help drive Russian forces out of Ukraine, though he believes that the U.S. must first take the initiative before allies will follow.
“I’m really optimistic that Abrams tanks are possible in the future and I am sure that fighter jets like F-16s, F-15s, or Gripen from Sweden will also be possible,” he said in a recent report in Politico.
The decision to send contemporary main battle tanks like the German Leopard or the American Abrams has been a topic of discussion among NATO nations for months. German officials have so far refrained, saying they won’t be the first to send NATO-grade heavy armour out of concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin could interpret this as escalation of the war.
Nevertheless, according to American officials, Abrams tanks are logistically challenging fuel guzzlers that would be challenging to maintain on the Ukrainian battlefield.
Despite all the political and practical obstacles, Reznikov is still optimistic about persuading the West to give Ukraine more advanced, NATO-quality weapons based on the information in the Politico report.
The report also claims that in a frustrating game of drawing lines in the sand that are later crossed by governments, Reznikov pointed out that many items once regarded as forbidden, such as drones, rockets, and artillery, eventually made it to Kyiv.
The report also underlines that Reznikov visited Washington shortly after being named defense minister in November 2021, and requested Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Reznikov was told “no, it’s impossible,” and he claimed the following: “I asked them why. The answer was because it’s forbidden by the law … and political issues. Then in January, a month before the invasion, we got our first package from Lithuania. It was the Stingers, and we got it with permission from the United States. So for me, it’s an example that if you hear it’s impossible, it means it will be possible in the future.”
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and 155mm howitzers, which arrived over the summer and have significantly changed the situation on the battlefield, are also said to have followed the same pattern.
He argued that the group’s crucial decision, at least in the short term, “should be what kind of main [battle] tank we will have for the armed forces of Ukraine, because we understand that all our partners who have an industry that can produce tanks — like Britain, France and Germany — they will wait for the political decision from the United States,” he said. “After the first Abrams [arrives] I’m sure we will have Leopards, Marders [German infantry fighting vehicles] and other types of heavy armored vehicles like tanks.”
Around 250 older Russian tanks, models that Ukrainian tank crews are accustomed to, have already been donated to Ukraine by Poland. However, Ukrainian leaders assert that more modern tanks would be essential in driving the Russians back.
Despite cruise missiles and drones being prominent in this most recent phase, the war will still be fought on the ground, village to village. Kyiv will keep arguing for more armour given Russia’s seemingly limitless supply of tanks, artillery pieces, and armoured personnel carriers, according to the report.
The article also states that preliminary talks about eventually giving Ukraine F-16 fighter jets are continuing, but Washington officials don’t believe that would happen in the midst of the current conflict because it would be logistically difficult to train Ukrainian pilots and send the necessary spare parts for advanced aircraft.
In addition to helping in the removal of Russian troops from occupied territory, the use of Western weapons by Ukraine enables other nations to test their arsenals against a Russian army that was previously regarded as second only to the U.S.
The report highlights additional optimistic comments by Reznikov who said, “We have a combat testing field in Ukraine during this war,” adding, “I think that all [countries] see how we use these systems, you know that we have eight different 155mm artillery systems in the field … so it’s like a competition between systems” to see which proves most effective.
Some of those systems are currently being tested against Iranian drones and Russian cruise missiles, which Russia continues to use to terrorise civilians and attack infrastructure.
“The entire civilized world should be trying to find the solution of how to jam them, or how to hit them, because it’s a real threat for the entire world because they will use this equipment against Western targets one day,” he continued. “They will use them because it’s a very efficient [drone], and I think it’s a real challenge” for NATO and Europe.