How the Ukrainian tanks signal a shift in power relations in Europe

Germany’s U-turn on tanks has signaled a major shift in European politics (Image: Getty)

Berlin and Washington’s decision last week to send high-end tanks to Ukraine was widely cited as a “game changer” in their fight against Russia — but not for the reasons one would expect.

Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks, along with the US M1 Abrams and British Challenger 2, are expected to change the shape of the war.

They signal an optimistic determination by the West to push Russia out of Ukraine and end the conflict once and for all.

But while Ukraine has a significant advantage on the battlefield, the real significance of the move lies not in the tanks themselves, but in the way they signal a shift in the western coalition’s balance of power and how they approach the next phase of the conflict want .

For much of 2022, the overarching view of the US and most major European powers was that while the invasion of Russia must be rejected, the possibility of negotiations with Putin should not be taken off the table.

The Kremlin has since taken full advantage of those concessions by launching a series of bogus “peace talks” throughout the year.

They have been used to undermine Ukraine and force it to accept a deal – something Zelensky has fiercely opposed.


European countries bordering Ukraine are tired of waiting for Germany to respond to what they see as an existential crisis (Image: AP)

“The greatest danger for Ukrainians is not an offensive, but a stalemate,” said Taras Kuzio, a professor of political science at Ukraine’s Kyiv-Mohyla National University.

Speaking exclusively to, he said: “Russia has literally failed at every point.

“The Russian army is logistically weak and lacks both the technology and the officer corps to launch a meaningful offensive.

“The only advantage Putin is willing to take advantage of is to keep throwing bodies at the front lines with these World War I-style human waves and hope that this will overwhelm the Ukrainians enough to result in a stalemate. “

This is bad for Zelenskyy, he explains, because the longer Russia is able to hold out and exhaust NATO’s resources while denying Ukraine any meaningful gains.


German-made Leopard 1 tanks in a warehouse in Tournai, Belgium on February 2 (Image: Getty)

It’s likely that Western support will eventually dry up, forcing them to make a deal with Putin, Mr Kuzio explained.

But while Joe Biden and Chancellor Olaf Schulz have been reluctant for months to give Kyiv the firepower it needs to make a meaningful breakthrough, fearing further escalation, the sentiment across the rest of the continent has not been mutual.

Behind the scenes, the European states most directly exposed to Russian aggression—in Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Central and Eastern Europe—are growing frustrated with Washington and Berlin.

The longer the war drags on, the more Russia has proven genocidal and expansionist, and for former Soviet bloc countries, the prospect of a Russian victory in Ukraine is not just a theoretical concern but an existential threat, scholars say.

epa10228684 Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin attends an informal EU summit in Prague, Czech Republic, October 7, 2022. EU leaders will meet in the Czech capital to discuss pressing issues such as Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the bloc's energy and economic health. EPA/MARTIN DIVISEK

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Russia must be defeated in order to “send a message” to the rest of the world (Image: EPA)

Unlike the so-called “great powers,” these countries do not enjoy the benefit of complacency, and it is implicitly understood in these circles that the only way to secure their long-term future is not just to drive Russia out of Ukraine, but doing it defeats them directly.

That sentiment was shared by several heads of state, but most notably Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who told reporters last year Ukraine “must” win the war.

“We don’t know when the war will end, but we have to make sure the Ukrainians win. I don’t think there is any other choice. If Russia won the war, we would only see decades of this behavior ahead of us,” Marin said.

“I think other countries are looking very closely at what is happening in Ukraine now.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Nicolas Landemard/Le Pictorium Agency via ZUMA/Shutterstock (13751945w) While the Europeans have to send Leopard 2 and other tanks to Ukraine, about 500 heavy and light tanks (Leopard 1 and Cheetah...) are stored there the hangars of the defense company OIP Land Systems near Tournais in Belgium. That number makes it the largest private collection of tanks in Europe.) Freddy Versluys, the CEO, is willing to sell and export them once he gets the necessary permits from the government. The Man Who Wanted to Help Ukraine: Inside the Hangars, the Leopards, Brussels, Belgium - February 02, 2023

Hundreds of tanks are sent to Ukraine (Photo: Nicolas Landemard/Le Pictorium Agency via ZUMA/Shutterstock)

“And if Russia won, then it would send a message that you can invade another country, attack another country and take advantage of it,” she added.

In this regard, the U-turn by Germany and the US on tanks – and the anger it has sparked in Moscow – is better understood as a sign that the “smaller” countries are now poised to take the lead in the conflict and the rest forcing NATO to provide Ukraine with enough high-end weapons to break the deadlock and bring about a definitive end to the war.

British-Ukrainian author and journalist Stefan Jajecznyk-Kelman told “Although Germany has supplied Ukraine with a lot of equipment over the past year, it has had some pretty clear lines as to the level of weapons it is preparing had to give to Ukraine, which they were not willing to cross.’

“That’s why there was all this anger in Moscow about the Leopard tanks, because I think they still felt like maybe Germany was in their pocket a little bit and that kind of turned against it.”

epa10444659 Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with members of public patriotic and youth organizations at the Museum and Panorama of the Battle of Stalingrad during commemoration ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II in Volgograd, Russia, 02 February 2023. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia has something to answer for in the case of supplying foreign tanks, including German Leopards, to the Ukrainian armed forces.

Putin hopes by forcing a stalemate he can claim more territory in Ukraine (Image: EPA)

The Kremlin has tried to respond to the tank shipments with more nuclear threats and saber-rattling, but as Jajecznyk-Kelman explains, apart from further mobilization and terror-bombing campaigns in Ukraine, there seems little they can do to attack NATO members directly.

So what exactly can Russia do to respond?

“They can continue to meddle in domestic politics and use diplomacy to wage the same propaganda war that they have waged in recent years,” says Jajecznyk-Kelman.

“They can also use their veto power in the UN Security Council, and God knows what Russian diplomats are up to in different parts of the world.


A German-made Leopard 1 tank (Image: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Politically, there are many things that Russia does and does.”

According to Kuzio, the next major front in Russia’s hybrid war against the West will likely be the next set of US presidential elections, which he’s confident Moscow will try to meddle in.

“I think the biggest potential danger for Ukraine is the 2024 US elections. Because if the Trumpites win the presidency, they will start reducing military support to Ukraine,” he said.

“In 2016 the Russians supported Trump and of course they will try to support him again because they hate Biden.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) chats with Russia's President Vladimir Putin as they attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, in the central Vietnamese city of Danang November 11, 2017. (Photo by Mikhail KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

There are fears Russia will try to interfere in the next US presidential election like they did in 2016 (Image: AP)

“But remember, it’s not going to be anything new for Americans right now. Americans will now be alert to any Russian interference, and they were not in 2016.”

He added: “What Putin hopes is that Western governments will break and that unity will break, but I think they are wrong about that.”

But despite the Kremlin leader’s repeated attempts to meddle in the affairs of Western governments, his meddling has only made them stronger, the scientists say.

Instead, we are witnessing the emergence of a new force in European politics, united by a common enemy and an existential threat.

Boasting some of the continent’s fastest-growing economies and their best-equipped militaries, they are no longer content to place their continued existence in the hands of Washington or Berlin, and will ensure that it does so, whatever the eventual outcome of the war in of Ukraine will be the case will be decided on their terms.

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Justin Scacco

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