Ukraine's Newest Weapons Could Be Disastrous for Putin: Admiral

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis believes Germany sending Leopard tanks to Kyiv could usher a change on the ground in Ukraine's favor in the 11-month war against Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources. At least one company of tanks, often comprising 14 tanks, will be provided.

The tanks will come from Bundeswehr stocks. Berlin also will authorize the supply of the same tanks by other countries, notably Poland.

"If true, this could be a true pivot point in the war," Stavridis, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, posted on Twitter. "Well done, Germany, and 'Danke Schoen.'"

Scholz Germany Leopard Tanks Abrams Russia Ukraine
A Leopard tank of the Bundeswehr Panzerlehrbrigade 9 (9th Armoured Demonstration Brigade) during a presentation of capabilities by the unit on May 20, 2019, in Munster, Germany. In inset, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a production facility at Hensoldt on January 16, 2023, in Ulm, Germany. Scholz announced Tuesday that Germany will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images; Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Richard Newton said Sunday on NewsNation that the Leopard tanks are "much needed," adding they won't win a war but could aid Ukraine in a broader scope.

"The tanks themselves won't make a crucial difference," Newton said. "What's crucial here is really creating a more effective, what we call, 'combined operations,' combined operations being more artillery and infantry and air defense."

Christian Duerr, parliamentary leader of the co-governing Free Democrats in Germany, said according to t-online news portal that the decision to support Ukraine with the tanks "is a strong sign of solidarity" and a decision nobody took lightly.

Germany's original reluctance to provide the tanks was reportedly because Scholz wanted to keep the country and its citizens out of Russia's potential crosshairs.

However, a spokesperson for Rheinmetall—the German manufacturer of the Leopard 2 tank—told German media outlet RND that 29 Leopard 2A4 tanks could be made available to Kyiv as soon as April, according to a translation.

The spokesperson said the company has been waiting for permission from Berlin to move forward.

Mark Cancian, a retired U.S. military officer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Newsweek that while he holds Stavridis in high regard, he disagrees with the tanks leading to a drastic shift in the war.

"NATO tanks will be useful because they are less vulnerable and have better fire control; they can spot and hit targets at longer distances than Russian tanks," Cancian said. "However, the numbers will be relatively small even if many countries contribute, compared with the 800 or so tanks that Ukraine already has.

"There is no such thing as a 'game changer' or 'silver bullet.' Ukrainian victory will be built by the cumulative effect of upgraded equipment across the board and increased training."

Jordan Cohen, policy analyst at the Cato Institute, told Newsweek that an immediate impact is unlikely considering the time it takes to train soldiers to operate the tanks. But he expressed optimism in terms of an eventual short-term positive impact.

"They are clearly useful for making territorial gains," Cohen said. "My fear is that Russia, like they have throughout the conflict, will adapt. It is harder to defend territory than take it, but that is not even as far as Russia needs to go."

He cited Russia's willingness to brazenly threaten and attack Ukrainian citizens and infrastructure. Questions also remain surrounding continued NATO aid to Ukraine, Cohen added, though tanks and Patriot systems show investment as part of a longer wartime strategy.

"I expect, once [Russia adapts] to having to fight against tanks, they will once again increase the costs of holding land," he said.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that the U.S. might supply Ukraine with Abrams tanks.

A Pentagon spokesperson told Newsweek that they have no comment regarding Ukraine and either the Leopard or Abrams tanks.