Russian officials reacted with defiance and ire to the swift succession of announcements on Wednesday that Germany and the United States would send Western tanks to Ukraine.
Within hours of one another, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Germany would send an initial shipment of 14 Leopard 2 tanks and President Biden announced plans to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks. The moves were intended to unlock a wave of aid by Western allies before an expected escalation of fighting in the spring, or earlier.
Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said that delivering American M1 Abrams and German Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv would be a “losing scheme” that would burden Europe without strengthening the Ukrainian military, according to Tass, the Russian state-run news agency, warning the tanks would “go up in flames.”
“They cost a lot and all this burden will be primarily shouldered by European taxpayers,” he said.
Similarly, a Russian lawmaker and former commander of the Russian Air Force, Viktor N. Bondarev, told Tass that the tanks would not significantly impact the Russian campaign in Ukraine, but that attention must be paid to destroying them.
Stronger sentiments were expressed by the Russian ambassadors to Germany and the United States. Sergey Nechaev, the ambassador to Germany, said in a statement that Berlin’s decision was “highly dangerous” and “takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation.”
Mr. Nechaev said the move suggested that Germany and Western allies were not interested in a diplomatic resolution of the war in Ukraine and “is bent on its permanent escalation.”
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s U.S. ambassador, said in a statement on Tuesday that the expected U.S. provision of tanks to Kyiv would be “another blatant provocation” against Russia and would signal a proxy war with his country.
President Biden took note of such concerns in his announcement on Wednesday, saying that the provision of tanks was “not an offensive threat,” adding, “If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war would be over today.”