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Britain declares it will give Ukraine tanks, going against a Western restriction.

Britain declares it will give Ukraine tanks, going against a Western restriction.

Britain suggested on Saturday that it might provide battle tanks to Ukrainian forces to assist them to get ready for anticipated Russian assaults this spring, despite years of opposition to doing so.

According to a statement from Downing Street, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of his “ambition” to provide British main battle tanks and additional artillery systems. Zelenskyy congratulated Sunak for “the decisions that would not only strengthen us on the battlefield but also convey the proper signal to other partners” before the British statement.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year, the British Challenger 2
combat tanks would be the first ones imported from the West. Long-standing concerns among officials in the United States and Europe have been that sending tanks and other potent weapons to Ukraine, which would greatly increase its capacity to hurt Russian forces, might push Russian President Vladimir Putin to escalate the conflict, possibly even by attacking Western targets or deploying small-scale nuclear weapons.

However, in recent weeks, that calculation has started to shift as Western officials worry that there isn’t much time left to assist Ukraine to get ready for a possible Russian onslaught this spring and, some claim, a counteroffensive of its own. In part, because the Ukrainians have done admirably on the battlefield and have skillfully and within the confines imposed by their friends deployed other advanced Western weapons, they have grown more ready to take risks.

Since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has pleaded for Western tanks to replace its
Soviet-era, Russian-made, and tanks provided by other Eastern European nations. After months of combat, those tanks are rapidly losing their armor, and they are also rapidly running out of obsolete ammo.

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The British and Polish governments publicly encouraged a shift in the Western alliance’s posture this past week, which accelerated the drive to accede to Ukraine’s requests.

The British statement might put more pressure on Germany to provide Ukraine with its highly sought-after Leopard 2 tanks or at the very least to let other European nations that own those German-built tanks do the same. Poland has said that it will deliver some of its German-built tanks, but Berlin must approve.

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