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The UK is giving Ukraine hundreds of armored vehicles. Russia has a plan to destroy them.

The UK is not just sending Ukraine a small batch of surplus Challenger 2 tanks. He plans to donate hundreds armored vehicles and self-propelled howitzers. Enough equipment for an entire brigade.

It is an offensive weapon. And the British government intends to support a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in 2023.

But the Russian government knows this and it plans to spoil the Ukrainian offensive with its own offensive.

The UK was one of Ukraine’s first allies to offer Western-style tanks. While NATO countries helped Kyiv last year procure hundreds of surplus Soviet-style tanks, including T-72s and M-55S hybridsthe western alliance was reluctant to send its best M-1s, Challenger 2s and Leopard 2s.

Poland was the first to emerge from the ranks. During a visit to Lviv in western Ukraine on January 11, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that Poland would donate a company of Leopard 2 tanks. A company may include a dozen or 14 vehicles.

The United Kingdom announced its own donation three days later. “Sending Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine is the start of a shift in UK support,” the UK government said. declared. “A squadron of 14 tanks will enter the country in the coming weeks.”

But the Challenger 2s are only part of a much bigger set of helpers. The UK also plans to send the first eight AS90 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, possibly followed by 22 more AS90s.

“Hundreds of additional armored and protected vehicles will also be sent,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said. declared. They include an unknown number of Bulldog armored personnel carriers and, presumably, Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles.

A brigade with Challengers, Bulldogs, Scimitars and AS90s should, with proper training and support, be capable of intensive offensive operations.

That’s the whole point, Wallace wrote. “Today’s package is a significant increase in capacity for Ukraine. This means they can go from resist to expel Russian forces on Ukrainian soil.

Ukraine has already carried out three major counter-offensives. First ejection of Russian invaders from north-central Ukraine from late March last year. Then, six months later, routed the Russians in northeastern and south-central Ukraine.

But the arrival of the onset of cold and wet winter, along with the arrival of tens of thousands of newly recruited Russian soldiers, halted the Ukrainian advance. Large-scale attacks could resume once the ground freezes over in the coming weeks and intensify as winter turns to spring.

The Ukrainian army should then have integrated several hundred tanks and Western combat vehicles. Not only the Leopard 2s and the Challenger 2s, but also ex-US M-2 combat vehicles, former German Marder combat vehicles and AMX-10RC reconnaissance vehicles from France. Altogether a powerful offensive force.

But the Russian military aims to interfere with any Ukrainian attack. “The Kremlin is likely preparing for decisive strategic action over the next six months aimed at regaining the initiative and ending Ukraine’s current string of operational successes,” the Institute for the Study said. of war based in Washington. Noted.

Russian commanders are replenishing depleted brigades and divisions with conscripts, conscripts and repaired weapons. The Russian government is pumping money into arms factories, hoping to repair some of the thousands of vehicles and hundreds of planes the Russians have lost in Ukraine and supply them with ammunition.

The plan could be for a revamped Russian army to wait for the Ukrainian army to attack, then counterattack with superior force. “Russian forces may seek to successfully defeat a Ukrainian counteroffensive and deprive Ukraine of the initiative by destroying a significant proportion of Ukrainian mechanized forces,” the ISW explained.

“Such successful Russian decisive action could then allow Russian forces to develop a counter-offensive to exploit the disorganized and exhausted Ukrainian forces.”

This collision of mechanized armies – the Ukrainians with their new NATO hardware, the Russians with new copies of their same old tanks and combat vehicles – could reshape Russia’s wider war against Ukraine as she is entering her second year.

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