Russian President Vladimir Putin was in the Russian city of Volgograd on Thursday to take part in celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of victory in the Battle of Stalingrad, the turning point of Soviet troops against Nazi Germany in World War II. In his speech, Putin declared that Russia is again being threatened by German tanks.
“It is unbelievable, but it is a fact. We are again threatened by German Leopard tanks, on board of which there are crosses. And again they are trying to fight us with the hands of Hitler’s followers: Bandera’s followers,” Putin said, referring to to Stepan Bandera, icon of Ukrainian ultranationalism, who collaborated with Hitler in Ukraine during World War II.
“We don’t send our tanks to your borders, but we have something to respond with, and the use of armored vehicles will not end,” he added.
It is worth remembering that Russia’s justification for the invasion of Ukraine, classified by Moscow as a “special military operation” on February 24, 2022, was the objectives of “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine.
Later, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, explaining Putin’s statement to journalists, said: “Russia has potential, and as new weapons provided by the collective West appear, Russia will use its existing potential throughout. the extension in order to respond within the scope of the special military operation”.
The bellicose rhetoric comes against the background of Germany’s unprecedented decision to supply Ukraine with Leopard-2 tanks. Berlin had been reluctant for months to confirm the delivery of this type of military equipment to Kiev. The announcement was followed by a number of other countries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky even declared last week that 12 countries had joined what he called a “coalition of tanks” to help Ukraine fight Russia. According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will receive from 120 to 140 modern Western tanks as part of the “first wave” of assistance.
In an interview with Brazil in fact, political scientist Ivan Preobazhenskii, observes that the evolution of the type of military assistance to Ukraine reflects the changing phases of the war initiated by Russia. He points out that, in the first stage, the West conditionally provided only defensive weapons such as Javelin anti-tank missiles and portable anti-aircraft systems.
“The Western Allies believed that the Ukrainian army’s course was to carry out guerrilla military actions, and they provided corresponding weapons. When it became clear that the Ukrainian army was in a position to carry out full military actions against Russia, they began to deliver old Soviet weapons held by countries of NATO and the discussion was about a defensive war”, he explains.
The researcher points out that, after a series of successful operations to retake Ukrainian regions such as Kharkov and Kherson, the ability of Ukrainian forces to advance and make Russian troops retreat was blocked, because the Ukrainian army does not have weapons offensives and Moscow mobilized more than 300,000 new soldiers, blocking the battlefront.
The current reinforcement of the “coalition of tanks”, therefore, represents the first large-scale delivery of offensive weapons to Ukraine and comes amid the expectation of a new large-scale Russian offensive to consolidate Moscow-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine.
“This is a new stage, it is a decision that shows that the West is willing to support a Ukrainian offensive. This is also a response to the fact that Russia is preparing its offensive and NATO sees this perfectly (…) they want to give to understand to the Kremlin that there is an expectation that Ukraine will fight back this offensive and that there will be punishment for what Russia is doing, giving (Ukraine) the possibility to carry out a counter-offensive and liberate the territories that are still occupied”, says Preobrazhenskii .
However, the political scientist says that without the provision of aviation and full long-range weapons, “there is no possibility of the war spilling over into the territory of Crimea and Russia’s border with Ukraine”. Germany has already declared that it rejects the idea of supplying fighter jets to Kiev, but some countries are showing signs that they can take that extra step in the intensification of Ukrainian armament.
When asked about the possible supply of fighter jets to Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron said last Monday (30) that “nothing is ruled out”.
“First, there must be a request from the Ukrainian side. Second, escalation must be ruled out. What we provide must not affect Russian territory, but must protect Ukraine. Third, our assistance must not weaken the ability France’s defense,” Macron said.
Moscow responded harshly to the French president’s remarks. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova declared that such a step would lead to an escalation of the war in Europe.
“Is the President of France really sure that if weapons, heavy weapons and aircraft, are provided to the Kiev regime to conduct combat operations, this will not lead to an escalation of the situation? I refuse to believe that an adult is guided by this kind of logic”, he stressed.
A New York Times publication, citing Pentagon sources, reported that US authorities may allow third countries to transfer US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but that Washington would be unlikely to send its own planes.
According to the sources, Ukraine may receive F-16 fighter jets from Denmark or the Netherlands. The Netherlands in particular would have around 40 F-16s at its disposal and Denmark is switching to more modern F-35 fighters and has signaled it is ready to transfer F-16s to Ukraine.
Colonel Alexander Vindman, former director of European affairs at the US National Security Council, in a publication by Foreign Affairs magazine, stated that with the help of western tanks and other weapons, the armed forces of Ukraine can liberate the region of Zaporozhye and south of Donbass to reach the coast of the Sea of Azov, destroying the Russian land corridor.
According to him, if these incursions are successful, “it is possible to imagine an eventual Ukrainian campaign to retake Crimea”, annexed by Russia in 2014.
“Ukraine is likely to start targeting more of Russia’s military infrastructure in Crimea in preparation for a broader campaign to liberate the peninsula. Rather than wait for this scenario to play out, risking a longer and more dangerous war that could involve NATO, Washington should give Ukraine the weapons and assistance it needs to win quickly and decisively in all occupied territories north of Crimea,” argues the military expert.
Pressure from the West on Brazil?
Western pressure for greater military support for Ukraine is not confined to the European Union. Germany asked Brazil to sell tank ammunition to be sent to Ukraine. Brazil refused and maintained neutrality in the conflict. This week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz toured Latin America and, on a visit to Brazil, discussed the matter with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), who reiterated his position of not interfering in the war.
According to Lula, “Brazil is not interested in passing on ammunition so that it will not be used in the war between Ukraine and Russia.”
“Brazil is a country of peace. Our last litigation was in the Paraguayan War and, therefore, Brazil does not want to have any participation, even if indirect. Because I think that at this moment in the world we should be looking for who can help find peace between Russia and Ukraine,” said the Brazilian president.
The German chancellor, after the meeting with the Brazilian president, said that the war is a violation of international law and again condemned Russia. According to him, “this war is not a European issue, but an issue that concerns all of us”.
Political scientist Ivan Preobrazhenskii believes that Germany can increase the pressure on Brazil for the supply of ammunition. According to him, if Germany and European Union countries are supplying Ukraine with tanks and, as a result, are unable to produce the necessary amount of ammunition that they believe is needed, “of course there will be pressure”.
“But Germany cannot say to Brazil: ‘we are going to leave your ammunition for the stockpile and our ammunition we are going to deliver to Ukraine’. Of course, it will not work like that, and the Brazilian authorities are not obliged to trust Germany and think they can make a filter”, he adds.
Editing: Thales Schmidt
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