Ukraine War, January 14, 2023: NATO policy on transfer of modern armored vehicles changes, as Putin’s nuclear threats lose credibility

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, and you will see a list in chronological order.

To understand the broad context within which current developments in Ukraine should be considered,see

“Ukraine War, October 26, 2022: The context for analysis of current developments; The “dirty bomb” as a Russian propaganda distraction from current war crimes,” The Trenchant Observer, October 26, 2022.

Dispatches

1) Marc Bassets y Elena G. Sevillano, “Francia, Alemania y Estados Unidos aceleran su apoyo bélico a Ucrania con el envío de tanques modernos
Kiev obtiene por primera vez blindados de fabricación occidental tras meses de reticencias en París y Berlín,” El País, el 6 de enero 2023 (23:49 EST);

2) Marc Bassets and Elena G. Sevillano, “France, Germany and the United States accelerate their military support for Ukraine with the shipment of modern tanks; Kiev gets Western-made armored vehicles for the first time after months of reluctance in Paris and Berlin, El País, January 6, 2023 (23:49 EST);

Analysis

In the last 10 days we havw witnessed a sea change U.S. and NATO strategy for
assisting Ukraine in its war of self-defense against Russian aggression and the barbarism of its soldiers and military command. The latter have followed a systematic campaign of war crimes amounting to crimes against humanity and apparent genocide.

Vladimir Putin and his accomplices have clearly committed the international crime of aggression, for which the leading Nazi war criminals were condemned to death by hanging at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946.(At Nuremberg “the crime of aggression” was prosecuted under the rubric of “crimes against peace”.)

The allied change in policy, which allows the transfer to Ukraine of armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and reconnaissance tanks, has been an extremely long time in coming. It apparently reflects a new assessment of the risk represented by Putin’s frequent nuclear threats, which have been losing credibility.

Marc Bassets and Elena G. Sevillano of El País have done a masterful job in pulling together the different threads of this story, and presenting in a single article a succinct and cogent account of recent developments and what they mean.

We have reported on various aspects of these developments here, in The Trenchant Observer, and in our Trenchant Observations newsletter on Substack.

See “The West’s goals in the Ukraine war: Avoiding defeat or achieving victory?” Trenchant Observations, January 12, 2023.

Long in coming, the change in policy has breathtaking implications.

There is no longer any strong argument for not giving Ukraine the battle tanks it has long been requesting. There are a large number of German-built Leopard 2 battle tanks available in Germany and in different NATO countries in Europe. The Leopard 2’s require less fuel than the American Abrams tanks, while maintenance and repair facilities in Europe are numerous and closer to Ukraine than the U.S.

They would make a huge difference on the battlefield as Ukraine launches further counter-offensives to to take back Ukrainian territory “temporarily occupied by Russia”, as the Ukrainians put it.

We should ignore all the confused arguments about whether the Leopard’s are “offensive” or “defensive”. Ukraine is defending itself against a Russian military invasion. All weapons furnished to Ukraine to help it repel the Russian attack and to expel Russian troops from Ukrainian territory (including the Crimea) in exercise of its right of self-defense under international law and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter are “defensive” in character.

It is not the inherent characteristics of a weapon that determine whether it is “offensive” or “defensive”, but rather its use. Here all weapons transferred to Ukraine are for the exercise of its right to self-defense under international law.

The White House and NATO partners seem to have adopted or to be moving toward a strategy that recognizes there will not be any negotiated ceasefire or settlement of the conflict, and that the war is likely to continue for a long time.

Given these realities, they increasingly recognize that a strategy of “avoiding defeat” will not address the Russian challenge to Ukraine, and to European and international security.

The Trenchant Observer

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