The decision by the United States and several allies to supply Ukraine with main battle tanks is paving a “direct path” to a full-scale war in Europe, Russia’s deputy envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) warned.
In a statement issued on Thursday concerning the “dangerous policy of the Western Alliance countries to escalate tensions” in Ukraine, deputy OSCE representative Maxim Buyakevich said foreign arms deliveries to Kiev would only prolong the current conflict, or kick off a larger regional war.
“The leaders of the US and their NATO client states have come close to a red line. Their deliberate actions to escalate the military confrontation in Ukraine – provoking the regime into military action against the Russian population using Western heavy weapons and NATO intelligence – is a direct path to a full-blown military conflict in Europe,” he said, arguing that all people on the continent “definitely stand to lose” from such a war.
The Anglo-Saxon puppeteers of this escalation will not sit on the sidelines this time.
The statement followed an agreement between Washington, Berlin and other European partners to send heavy armor to Ukrainian forces earlier this week, with the US preparing to ship more than 30 M1 Abrams tanks in addition to about a dozen Leopard 2s from Germany and Challenger tanks from the UK.
While it will take some time before the tanks reach the battlefield, the decision marked a sharp reversal for the US, which had repeatedly declined to send the M1 Abrams in the past. The White House made a similar about-face on the Patriot missile defense battery, one of which was authorized for Kiev last year despite previous refusals.
Germany, the UK and Poland have said their tanks will arrive in Ukraine in a matter of weeks, but the timeline for the American weapons remains hazy given a large backlog of orders for General Dynamics, which produces the Abrams. Poland currently expects to receive 250 M1A2 tanks, while Taiwan previously ordered 108 units of the same model. Deliveries aren’t expected until 2024 and 2025, however, and the single facility capable of manufacturing the Abrams can produce only 12 units per month. It is unclear, then, how long it will take before Ukraine gets the 31 tanks pledged this week.
Russia’s OSCE rep went on to say that military aid from Western states only “deepens their involvement in armed confrontation with Russian troops,” claiming their support is not “pro-Ukrainian,” but rather “anti-Russian.”
“Their masks have long been thrown off. They are no longer embarrassed to say directly that this is not at all about the struggle for some kind of Ukrainian statehood, but about the promotion of the ‘rules-based world order’ being formed by the West,” Buyakevich continued, citing recent comments by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who declared that “we are fighting a war against Russia” earlier this week.
Moscow has vowed to “destroy” all NATO weaponry sent to Kiev and said it would respond to Western tank deliveries, with Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergei Nechayev saying the move “takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation.” It remains unclear how Russian forces will react to the decision, though a large round of airstrikes was reported around Ukraine on Thursday, including in its capital city.