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Not a ‘magic bullet’: military experts weigh in on how western tanks could help Ukraine’s defence

As Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on, the focus is increasingly on the need to provide Kyiv with Western tanks.

While thousands of armoured vehicles have been destroyed on both sides, Ukraine overwhelmingly uses older Soviet-era tanks to face off against Moscow’s offensive and is gradually running out of them.

Kyiv sees tanks as vital to breaking through Russian lines and beating an anticipated counter-offensive in the 11-month-old conflict. But despite the fact that tanks can play a crucial role, analysts have told Euronews they will not be the game-changer one might expect.

“It’s not the magic bullet. It’s not something that will drastically change the course of the war,”  Johannes Anderson from the Swedish Defence Research Agency said.

“Also, on a tactical level, they are totally dependent on close-range support by infantry fighting vehicles.”

Germany’s Leopards 2s are operational in most European armies and continental NATO forces, which makes supplies readily available and the tanks easier to repair. 

A battle tank is a desirable addition to a battalion composed of lighter tanks like the French AMX-10 RC, and the US Bradley infantry support vehicle, both of which are to be delivered to Ukraine.

But Western analysts and Ukrainian army experts have said the qualities and shortcomings of Russia’s most recent tanks are still not known.

“There is no reason to assume that the Western tanks will be far superior to the Russian tanks,” Andersen added.

“They may be good at different things. So it’s also a matter of context and how you deploy them.”

According to military experts, to make a difference on the battlefield, the Ukrainian army would need more than 500 tanks.