The UK is considering sending Challenger II tanks to Ukraine, potentially overcoming the West’s previous reluctance to send “offensive” weapons to Kyiv.
The British government has been discussing sending 10 Challengers to Ukraine, Sky News reported, citing sources.
A government spokesperson would not confirm or deny the report, only saying that it is “committed to match or exceed last year’s funding for military aid to Ukraine in 2023.”
Could Prompt Others to Act
According to Sky News, London has not made a final decision on the matter. However, an announcement could be made during the Ukraine Contact Group meeting on January 20.
The move could prompt Western allies to follow suit, the outlet added.
“It will be a good precedent to demonstrate [to] others – to Germany first of all, with their Leopards… and Abrams from the United States,” the British outlet quoted a source as saying.
Western nations have thus far refused Kyiv’s requests for battle tanks, fearing the move could escalate the conflict.
Kyiv, in particular, has requested Germany send Leopard II tanks for offensive operations, considered an upgrade on Ukraine’s Soviet-origin T-72s.
Germany has not only declined Ukraine’s requests for the tank but also refused to allow Poland and Finland to send their Leopard tanks to Kyiv.
Germany holds the export license for the armored vehicle, necessitating countries possessing the tank to seek Berlin’s approval for export.
Changing Battle Scenario
However, Berlin has been seeking to ramp up arms supplies to Ukraine of late, beginning with the decision to send 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine last week.
Germany announced the decision in lockstep with Washington, which in turn announced its pledge to send 50 Bradley fighting vehicles.
The announcements came a day after France announced it would send AMX-10 RC light tanks to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia is also reportedly planning to mobilize up to 500,000 new conscripts from mid-January, according to Ukrainian military intelligence.
The Challenger has been undergoing an 800 million pound ($1.13 billion) upgrade since 2021.
Inducted in 1998, the tank weighs 64 to 74 tons and is “much better protected, more reliable, quicker” than the Ukrainian ones, Sky News quoted a former British Army commander as saying.
“Strategically this sends a very firm message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that nothing is off the table,” he said, adding that the introduction of Western tanks on the battlefield could “tip the balance” in Ukraine’s favor.