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February 2, 2023

Bring on the Tanks

Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine has roused all Europe’s wrath.

WASHINGTON — I have been following the pledging of combat tanks to Ukraine by the European allies. It is impressive. I do not think it is an exaggeration to claim that Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine has roused all Europe’s wrath. Even little Portugal has gotten into the act.

I think it is long past time for Putin to come to the negotiation table. Are his poorly trained and poorly armed soldiers hidden away in their trenches a match for NATO? I have my doubts.

Back in the late 1980s, I met President Boris Yeltsin, the first democratically elected president of Russia and possibly the last. In preparation for the meeting, I counseled with several experts on Russia, the most impressive of them being Robert Gates, at the time head of our CIA. They all agreed at least on one salient point: Russia’s longing to be considered a European nation. I listened to my Prokofiev and read up on my Dostoevsky before meeting the great man. In my brief conversation with him, I told him of my admiration for Russian culture, especially Russian literature. He seemed genuinely touched and grateful. Boris was indeed a European. I am not sure of what Putin’s response might have been. Possibly he would thump his chest and let out a yell.

I doubt Putin is considered an aficionado of Prokofiev or of Dostoyevsky today. His experience with the arts has been limited mostly to the art of self-defense. I recall an early photograph of him sitting on a horse somewhere in the Russian outback. He was not wearing a shirt and the photo was supposedly showing what an outdoorsman he had become. As I recall, he is an expert in the martial arts. Well, those days are long-gone. I am predicting he will not get through 2023 before turning room temperature. My guess is that he is today in the hands of the Kremlin quacks, or he may be headed for a more abrupt ending. You cannot lose over 100,000 of your countrymen in a war of dubious value and survive.

As I have said, the number of combat tanks being volunteered to Ukraine by European nations has impressed me. Perhaps they should have been volunteered earlier, but the tanks are making their way to Ukraine now. As mild as the weather has been in Ukraine this winter, the tanks will probably be put to use sooner rather than later. America will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks, probably the most lethal tanks in the world. Britain, Poland and a reluctant Germany are committed to sending 14 tanks, with Britain sending its Challenger 2 tanks in a matter of weeks. France is leaning toward sending an unspecified number of its Leclerc battle tanks, and Norway is sending four German Leopard 2s, while Denmark is kicking in 20 Swiss-made Piranhas. Spain, Finland and the Netherlands are promising to act. Even little Portugal is donating four Leopard 2s, and more European nations have yet to be heard from.

That means that over 100 heavily armored tanks are on their way to Ukraine now. The New York Times reports the Europeans have at least 2,000 more Leopard 2 tanks stored on bases in Europe along with hundreds of other varieties of Western battle tanks. The Russians have thousands of tanks still available, though, David Silbey, a military historian, tells the Times that “the West will never manage a one-to-one match for those numbers. But, given the quality advantage of the Leopard or Abrams over even the most modern Russian tank, if the West could supply 500 to 1,000 tanks, it would make a massive difference to the Ukrainians and to the war.”

Things have been going badly for Russia since their first tank was blown up in late February. To my mind, they have gotten even worse in recent weeks. Never has a European country had so many of its neighbors arrayed against it. By comparison, even Hitler was more popular, at least until the guns began firing. Last month, Henry Kissinger unveiled a plan for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. It is time to take Henry up on his recommendation.

Glory to Ukraine!


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