Out With the Old, in With the New(er)
Not every nation in the world is willing to send tanks to Ukraine to help them fight off the Russians. However, one country that has not been afraid to do so has been Poland. According to the Ukrainian multimedia platform Ukrinform, Poland has sent more than 240 tanks to its neighbor. In addition, they’ve also sent more than 100 armored personnel carriers. The combined value of the weapons the Poles have provided to the Ukrainians totals over $2 billion.
Ukrinform tells us that in an interview with the German newspaper Bild, Polish President Andrzej Duda stated, “We sent[T-72] tanks from Poland to Ukraine: almost two combat tank groups. There are more than 240 tanks that the Ukrainian army can service. We have sent almost a hundred armored personnel carriers.” He went on to mention that they also sent aid in the form of ammunition, small arms, and other types of various military equipment.
As he was depleting his nation’s weapons arsenal, President Duda made it clear that he expected his Western allies to help make up for their shortfall with weapons systems of the latest generation. Especially American weapons. He also explicitly mentioned wanting Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks from Germany. No doubt about it, the Germans build a good tank. However, there have not been any indications that the Germans were willing to share more of them with their NATO ally anytime soon.
In addition to the tanks, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Poles have provided Grad rocket launchers, self-propelled howitzers, and other Soviet-era weaponry from the older stock in their arsenal. The Ukrainians were quite glad to put it to use. One senior official is quoted as saying, “Ukraine got more from Poland than it asked for.”
The Journal says Poland is not the only nation to give tanks to Ukraine. The Czechs have provided a couple of dozen T-72s. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian Presidential aide to Volodymyr Zelensky, announced through Reuters that it would be sending tanks as well as airplanes to help the war effort in Ukraine. He stated, “Many nations are showing more courage today than half of the G20 [Group of 20 major economic powers]. Like North Macedonia, giving Ukraine a (supportive) shoulder in the form of tanks and planes.”
Ukraine Weapons Tracker has reported via Twitter that North Macedonia is doing its part by donating at least 8 T-72 tanks to Ukraine.
#Ukraine: North Macedonia 🇲🇰 decided to donate its tanks to Ukraine – this was confirmed by the country's Ministry of Defense.— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) July 29, 2022
Macedonia possesses ~30 T-72A tanks, with at least 8 of them known to be currently being transported to Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/VhEHoff6gw
Ukrainian News reports that a deal was in place for Greece to send older German-built tanks to Ukraine, but that the deal was squashed at the last minute. The cause was something to do with the Germans refusing to backfill tanks in Greece once they donated theirs to Ukraine. Unfortunately, there is a lot of that kind of thing happening lately. Recently, Germany blocked the transfer of their tanks to Ukraine via Spain.
The Greek Minister of Defense was not pleased with the indecisiveness of the Germans. Regarding the stop of the transfer, he said, “This is a circus. Mockery of Ukraine and Greece. There is simply no basis for this action.” He also spoke out loud about what many in the defense community have been talking about quietly for some time, “Olaf Scholz [the Chancellor of Germany] does not want to help Ukraine directly, but does not want to admit it openly.” For whatever reason, some Western nations fear that sending main battle tanks to Ukraine will be looked at by the Russians more harshly than sending other weapons systems such as rocket launchers.
US News and World Report have written that the Polish Defense Minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, informed them that his nation would buy 116 used Abrams main battle tanks (version not specified) from the United States. This is in an attempt to rebuild and strengthen their armed forces after giving so much military aid to their embattled neighbor, Ukraine. Following Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine, Poland has pledged to double the size of its army and allocate 3% of its gross domestic product to defense spending. This is in preparation for any possible future attack should the Russians push east beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Blaszczak, during an interview with Polish public TV broadcaster TVP Info, stated, “We agreed [to] a contract with the USA concerning the purchase on preferential terms of 116 used Abrams tanks,” saying that the deal would “significantly strengthen” the Polish defense posture.
This most recent purchase order comes on the heels of a contract to buy 250 Abrams tanks from the US. That deal was inked in April. Compared to the T-72, the Abrams will greatly enhance Poland’s defensive capabilities. The T-72 is a medium-weight tank at 44 tons, while the Abrams weighs in at almost 70 tons; much of that extra weight comes as armor protection. The Abrams can also kill a T-72 beyond the effective range of the T-72’s main gun. We can also expect that the crew quality of Polish tankers will far exceed that of their Russian counterparts if recent experience in Ukraine is any indication.