Russian officials reacted with defiance and anger to the rapid succession of announcements on Wednesday that Germany and the United States would send Western tanks to Ukraine.
Within hours of each other, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany would send an initial shipment of 14 Leopard 2 tanks and President Biden announced his intention to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks. The moves were aimed at unlocking a wave of aid from Western allies ahead of an expected escalation in fighting in the spring, or sooner.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said delivering US M1 Abrams and German Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv would be a “losing plan” that would overwhelm Europe without bolstering Ukraine’s military, according to Tass, the agency Russian press, warning the tanks “would catch fire”.
“They are expensive and all this burden will be borne mainly by European taxpayers,” he said.
Similarly, a Russian lawmaker and former commander of the Russian Air Force, Viktor N. Bondarev, told Tass that the tanks would not have a significant impact on the Russian campaign in Ukraine, but that it had to be sure to destroy them.
Stronger sentiments were expressed by Russian ambassadors to Germany and the United States. Sergey Nechaev, the ambassador to Germany, said in a statement that Berlin’s decision was “very dangerous” and “takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation”.
Mr Nechaev said the move suggested Germany and Western allies were not interested in a diplomatic resolution to the war in Ukraine and “are committed to its permanent escalation”.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement on Tuesday that the US supply of tanks to Kyiv would be “another blatant provocation” against Russia and signal a proxy war with his country.
President Biden took note of these concerns in his Wednesday announcement, saying the supply of tanks was “not an offensive threat”, adding: “If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war would be over. today”.