After much back-and-forth and strenuous behind the scenes hand-wringing, Germany has cleared the way for its Leopard 2 tanks to join the fight for democracy in Ukraine, pledging this week to send an initial company of 14 tanks and clearing the way for other European countries to do the same. This week, the U.S. joined in with President Joe Biden’s pledge to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to the beleaguered forces of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The U.S. and Europe have been rightly supporting Ukraine’s defense since Russia invaded nearly a year ago, but this move marked the first time that the aid took the form of these war wagons, to Russia’s chagrin. The aggressor’s often oblique and recently explicit threats to use its nuclear arsenal if facing a total defeat in Ukraine are to be taken seriously, but if Russia believes that this alone will force other nations to back off from supporting Ukraine, it’s got the picture backwards.
The more unhinged Vladimir Putin and his allies’ behavior gets, the clearer it becomes that they cannot simply be appeased and they certainly won’t stop at this invasion if it becomes clear that they can subjugate other nations through force simply by pointing to the threat of their nuclear warheads. Anyone who thinks that stepping back and allowing Russia to steamroll over its neighbor will leave it satisfied should read some history.
Since the war started, Moscow’s invaders have lost 1,642 tanks and the defenders have seen their stocks depleted by 449. A few dozen replacements for the heroic Ukrainians isn’t going to set off WWIII. Resupplying Ukraine helps equalize the playing field against a much larger invading force, giving the smaller army a better fighting chance on its own terms.
Russia will screech about it being a dangerous escalation or a new front in the war, but in the end there are no NATO troops on the ground and the saber-rattling is just bluster. Russia isn’t going to nuke Germany, the United States or anyone else over a few tanks.