The UK is considering sending Ukraine its main battle tank, the Challenger 2, which would mark a significant escalation of military aid and would be the first time Kyiv would receive a Western-made heavy tank.
British sources told The Guardian that the UK has been discussing sending the tanks since the summer, but no final decision has been made. Sky News first reported the potential transfer and said the UK could send up to 10 tanks, far less than the 300 heavy tanks Ukrainian officials say they need.
The UK only has a fleet of 227 Challenger 2 tanks, so it isn’t in a position to provide many to Kyiv. But Ukrainian officials hope that if the UK sends the Challenger 2, it will inspire Germany and the US to send their heavy tanks, the German-made Leopard and the US-made Abrams.
The US and Germany both announced last week they would send Ukraine infantry fighting vehicles, which marks an escalation of military aid. France also announced it would give Kyiv AMX-10 RC armored combat vehicles, which are considered “light tanks,” but the pledges still fall short of the heavy tanks Ukraine has been demanding.
Germany hasn’t shown any sign that it’s prepared to send Ukraine Leopards, and Berlin would need to approve the transfer of the tanks if another European country that has purchased them wants to send them to Ukraine. In September, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he is trying to avoid a direct clash between NATO and Russia when explaining why his government hasn’t provided Ukraine with heavy tanks.
“We are supporting Ukraine,” Scholz told The New York Times. “We are doing it in a way that is not escalating to where it is becoming a war between Russia and NATO because this would be a catastrophe.”
But the US and its Western allies have shown a willingness to escalate military aid by providing Ukraine with weapons they’ve previously ruled out. Germany is also under significant pressure to send the Leopards, with France and Poland both pushing Berlin to do so.