Following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s continued calls for weaponry and ammunition, countries like the United States, Germany, Czech Republic, and Australia heed the Ukrainian President’s call. These countries are sending Pbv-501s and Bushmaster armored vehicles to Ukraine. T-72 tanks may follow if talks brokered by the US are successful.
On March 26th, Zelensky had renewed his calls for aircraft and tanks from NATO, saying that he was requesting just “1 percent” of NATO’s tanks and aircraft. Zelensky stated that he did not ask for more and that they had been waiting for 31 days, implying that European leaders were falling short of supporting them with weapons.
“We don’t want a million of quality bulletproof vests or some special brand helmets. Give me something to defend my country with, my state,” Zelenksy boldly said on Fox News.
This was reminiscent of his calls during his speech to NATO on March 24th, where he requested 1% of all NATO’s planes and tanks.
“Ukraine asked for your planes so that we do not lose so many people. And you have thousands of fighter jets! But we haven’t been given any yet,” Zelensky said. “You have at least 20,000 tanks! Ukraine asked for a percent—one percent—of all your tanks to be given or sold to us! But we do not have a clear answer,” the President said.
It can be remembered that NATO members were initially hesitant to supply Ukraine with heavy offensive weapons, as seen with the failed deal between Poland and the United States to donate MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Here, Poland was willing to donate the planes to the US by delivering them to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and the US would handle its delivery to Ukraine. In exchange, the US government would supply Poland with aircraft of “corresponding operational capabilities” through a purchase deal. However, the United States rejected this deal citing logistical concerns of NATO getting dragged potentially into the conflict.
The West is seemingly veering away from this cautionary stance. It is now opting to supply Ukraine with offensive weaponry, with Germany’s most notable change in stance.
Germany has announced that it has approved the transfer of 56 Pbv-501 infantry fighting vehicles (originally BMP-1s) to Ukraine. These Pbv-501s are upgraded versions of formerly East German BMP-1s, which were acquired by a Czech company (rumored to be the Excalibur Army) from Sweden.
Germany sold these vehicles to Sweden after the unification. The former BMP-1s were modified before being sold to Sweden and would become known as the BMP-1A1 Osts. Sweden would then rename some 350 newly purchased IFVs to “Pbv-501.” Its engine and transmission would be further upgraded to extend its service life. One of the major upgrades was that the launcher rail for the Koloma KBM 9K11 Malyutka wire-guided anti-tank missile was removed. However, the original 73 mm gun 2A28 turret was retained along with the 7.62mm coaxial machine gun on its right side.
Conditions for selling or transferring ownership of these vehicles require German approval even though they were already sold to the company based in the Czech Republic. However, there is a catch. Most of the IFVs reportedly do not work and would have to be refurbished and repaired so that the Ukrainians can use them. It’s unknown who will be undertaking these tasks.
The approval from Germany is a major shift from its rhetoric months ago when it had offered to donate 5,000 helmets last January, which sparked both outrage and laughter from the international community on social media. Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko stated that this donation initially left him speechless and thought it was a joke.
“The behavior of the German government leaves me speechless. The defense ministry apparently hasn’t realized that we are confronted with perfectly equipped Russian forces that can start another invasion of Ukraine at any time. What kind of support will Germany send next? Pillows?” Klitschko said.
It is also important to note that the Czech company tried to sell these infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine in 2019, but the Merkel government stopped it before it could push through. Furthermore, it can be remembered that the German government was hesitant to use the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as a choke point for Russia as it would severely impact the prices of gas in their country, which it ultimately did halt due to international pressure.
According to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, this decision to approve the transfer was because Germany had tried to avoid the war. However, Putin had forced its hand to deliver offensive weapons to Ukraine due to its actions.
Australia is also set to donate a number of Bushmaster troop carriers to Ukraine, as announced by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne. However, the exact number, method, and date of delivery are unknown.
The Biden administration has also said that it would work with NATO allies to transfer Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine as they would already know how to operate said tanks. According to senior US officials, its delivery will be “within days, and not weeks.” The transfer of said tanks would be easier than the Polish MiG-29 fighter jets as there is an abundance of T-72s from Slovakia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. In comparison, there is only a limited number of MiG-29s in these countries, which leaves them quite vulnerable if they were to donate them to Ukraine.
Poland is rumored to be the frontrunner to donate these tanks as they have 400 T-72M1s. They also have an abundance of tank units coming their way as replacements as they have already ordered 250 M1A2SEPv3 tanks last February 2022, worth $6 billion from the US. These units would join Poland’s 249 Leopard 2 tanks.
The other countries can also donate a number of their units. However, it was reported by The Warzone that Bulgaria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic do not have more than 100 units active. Except for Bulgaria, they also do not have a large reserve to cope with a large loss of tank units. Hungary can also opt to donate their T-72M1s as they have ordered 44 Leopard 2A7s from Germany. However, Hungary-Russia diplomatic relations have been relatively smooth the past few years, making a transfer unlikely.
With the confirmed transfers of 56 Pbv-501 infantry fighting vehicles, Bushmasters, and a pending transfer of T-72s, a new phase in the war might begin. The western allies are not only supporting Ukraine through military assistance packages and defensive weaponry anymore but also offensive weaponry that may help them defend (or even take back) the entirety of Donbas as intel suggests the Russians will focus on liberating the region.