Macron Sends ‘First Western Tanks’ to Ukraine, Followed by U.S. and Germany
In a potentially escalatory move, French President Emmanuel Macron became the first Western leader to supply Ukraine with tanks following talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On Wednesday, the Elysée announced that French-made AMX-10 RC light tanks — which were designed in the 1980s and are currently being phased out of the French military — will be sent to Ukraine. The move is a significant change of position from the Macron government, which hitherto has shied away from sending armour to the war zone for fear of escalating tensions with Moscow.
France has already been supplying Kyiv (Kiev) with air defence systems, anti-aircraft missiles, artillery, and armoured vehicles, but President Macron has been one of the few voices in Europe to consistently call for continued peace negotiations with Vladimir Putin to bring the conflict to an end.
The decision to send French-made tanks to the battlefield appears, therefore, to be a first move in shifting perspectives from western capitals on the viability of peace talks with the Kremlin.
A French presidential aid said according to the AFP: “The president wanted to increase aid” to Ukraine “by accepting to deliver AMX-10 RC light tanks,” adding: “It is the first time that Western-designed tanks are supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces.”
President Zelensky for his part wrote on Twitter: “Had a long and detailed conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron on the current situation. Thanked for the decision to transfer light tanks and Bastion APCs to Ukraine, as well as for intensifying work with partners in the same direction.”
Just days later, U.S. President Biden said he too would be sending armoured fighting vehicles to Ukraine, selecting Bradley M2s to be donated. Germany is also getting involved, announcing at the same time it would be sending Marder IFVs to Ukraine, a potentially risky move given the German Army has just brought back its now-vintage Marder armour to front-line service, given the new replacements have so many problems they have proven totally unusable in actual service.
The decision of Germany to send the Marder armour follows months of intense debate at home, which at times has even touched on whether to send heavy tanks — not just the lighter Infantry Fighting Vehicles now being supplied by France, the United States, and Germany.
There is growing pressure from the Greens and the neo-liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) which make up the other governing parties of the so-called traffic light coalition.
Green Member of the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter said earlier this week per Der Spiegle: “With the announcement of the French government to supply scout tanks, the argument of going it alone is finally absurd. Scholz must now end his blockade.”
The FDP’s Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who chairs the Defence Committee in the German parliament, said: “In the spirit of Franco-German friendship, the Chancellor must finally recognise and add to the signs of the times. The ball is now in Berlin.”
Earlier this year, Germany reversed its long-standing prohibition on sending or selling weapons to conflict zones following the February invasion of Ukraine, allowing the shipment of anti-aircraft gun shells to the country. Though the country has been the leading economy of the European Union for decades, it has long-neglected spending money on its own military. In a vindication of frequent criticisms from former President Donald Trump, Scholz announced after the invasion that Germany would finally seek to meet its NATO spending requirements on its military. Yet, this will likely take time to see results.
Therefore, SPD member of the Bundestag and Bundeswehr officer Johannes Arlt said that German tanks should only be supplied to Ukraine if there are plans to replace them on a one-to-one basis in the German military.