Russia: NATO’s military involvement ‘increases’ with weapons in Ukraine | War news of Russia and Ukraine

Russia says the delivery of NATO battle tanks to Ukraine is evidence of “direct and growing” US and European involvement in the war, with one analyst suggesting that supplier countries could become potential targets.

The comments come after the United States and Germany said on Wednesday they would arm Ukraine with dozens of heavy tanks in its fight against Russian forces.

“There are constant statements from European capitals and Washington that sending various weapons systems to Ukraine, including tanks, in no way means the involvement of those countries or alliances in hostilities in Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

“We categorically disagree with that, and in Moscow everything that the alliance and the capitals that I mentioned are doing is perceived as direct interference in the conflict. We see this growing.”

Kyiv has been seeking hundreds of modern tanks to give its troops the firepower to break through Russian defense lines and retake occupied territory in southern and eastern Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia rely primarily on Soviet-era T-72 tanks.

Russia, which started the war by invading Ukraine on February 24 last year, has increasingly portrayed the conflict as one with NATO.

Sergey Karaganov, a former adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said NATO’s arms shipments could result in possible military retaliation against the nations that supply them.

“By sending tanks, NATO countries are more and more openly involved in the war, and this makes them potential targets,” he told Al Jazeera.Abrams tanks

’25 years of NATO expansion’

Karaganov also blamed NATO for starting the conflict in Ukraine.

“It’s not really a Russian-Ukrainian war, it’s a Russian-Western war. Ukrainians are used as cannon fodder, and the leadership are mostly puppets. The West was advancing and preparing to attack Russia, and Russia decided to attack openly first. But it’s been 25 years of NATO expansion.”

Despite the vast supplies of weapons from the West, Karaganov predicted a Russian victory.

“Eventually, Russia will destroy the Ukrainian army and the country will be completely demilitarized. The neo-Nazi regime will be finished there,” he said.

A game changer?

Experts are divided on how effective German Leopard 2 tanks and American Abrams tanks will be against Russian forces.

“Deliveries of Leopard 2 will raise our ground forces to a qualitatively new level,” Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.

Although Leopard 2s are heavier than Soviet-designed tanks, they have a major advantage in firepower and survivability.

“One Leopard 2 could be equivalent to three or five Russian tanks,” Zhdanov said.

But he noted that the promised number of Western tanks represents only the minimum needed by Ukraine to repel a likely offensive by Moscow, adding that Russia has thousands of heavy armored vehicles.

“Kyiv is preparing for a defensive operation and its outcome will determine the future course of the conflict,” Zhdanov said.

Russian military analysts were more skeptical of NATO tanks, arguing that during the Iraq war the Abrams clearly proved superior to the older Soviet models, while the newer Russian models are closer to that. They also noted that the Leopard 2 tanks used by the Turkish military against the Kurds in Syria proved vulnerable to Soviet-era anti-tank weapons.

Andrei Kartapolov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, argues that both the Leopard 2 and the Abrams are inferior to Russia’s T-90, a modified version of the T-72.

Russia’s newest tank, the T-14 Armata, was produced in small numbers and has not yet been used in war.

The UK Ministry of Defense said in the latest intelligence that Russia was working to prepare a small batch of T-14s for deployment in Ukraine, but added that it had engine and other problems.

‘Great policy change’

Russian observers, meanwhile, noted that Western tanks could take a long time to reach Ukraine, adding that training Ukrainians to use and properly maintain them would be an additional challenge.

“This probably means that the Ukrainian army is likely to receive several small batches of tanks that may be incompatible with each other,” Moscow-based defense analyst Ilya Kramnik said in a comment.

Putin, his diplomats and military leaders have repeatedly warned the West that supplying long-range weapons that can strike deep inside Russia would draw a red line and trigger massive retaliation.

Zhdanov claimed that by agreeing to arm Ukraine with tanks, the West crossed an important psychological barrier and could eventually supply Kiev with even more lethal weapons.

“The delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine marks a major change in the policy of the Western allies, who have stopped fearing escalation and are now ready to challenge Russia in a resource war,” Zhdanov said.

“The West is forced to open the doors of its military arsenals to Ukraine even more.”

“Hard Retribution”

Ukrainian officials have long expressed hopes of acquiring US F-16 fighter jets and long-range missiles for the High Mobility Artillery Missile Systems, known as HIMARS, to strike targets far behind front lines.

Such wishes prompted ominous remarks from Russian diplomat Konstantin Gavrilov, similar to those made earlier by Putin and others.

“If Washington and NATO give Kiev weapons to attack peaceful cities deep in Russia and attempt to seize territories that constitutionally belong to Russia, it will force Moscow to take harsh retaliatory measures,” Gavrilov said at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“Then don’t tell us we didn’t warn you.”

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