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Sunday, April 2, 2023

debate on the supply of obsolete tanks to Ukraine


In Belgium, where dozens of old Leopard tanks are gathering dust in a warehouse, the proposal of a businessman who decided to sell them in Brussels with the subsequent transfer to the Ukrainian Armed Forces has provoked a heated debate. The Belgian city of Tournai is located in the southwest of the country. There is also a huge hangar, which stores German-made Leopard-1 tanks, which were once in service with the Belgian army. Their current owner is Freddy Versloos, a Belgian businessman and CEO of two defense companies, including OIP Land Systems.

Freddie Verslus himself doesn’t like being called an arms dealer. Part of his business is buying and selling weapons: “We bought tanks at market price about eight years ago. Now they are for sale. Of course, they cannot be used in this state. They need a complete overhaul. Tanks must be upgraded and shaped before they can be used in combat.”

When NATO partners promised to send tanks to Kiev to help Ukraine repel Russian aggression, Belgium did not join this group, explaining this by the lack of tanks. But then Freddy Verslus appeared with a proposal to the Belgian Ministry of Defense to buy more than fifty old Leopards from him, repair them and transfer them to the Ukrainian army. Brussels refused to buy them because they were not in good enough condition and too expensive. And Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder said: “There’s nothing stopping us from buying them back, but they don’t work. And we’re not going to buy them back at an unreasonable price. Now there are Belgian companies who set high margins, making the price too high.

If Belgium doesn’t buy the Leopards, says Versloos, there will be another country that can buy heavy armored vehicles for Kiev.

“We are discussing this issue with the governments of the UK and Sweden, there are many interested parties. Let’s see what happens,” the owner of OIP Land Systems confirmed in an interview with reporters.

It is not uncommon to hear that old NATO tanks, MLRS systems and artillery are ineffective against Russian weapons. Paul Goble, former adviser to the US Secretary of State, disagrees with this assertion.

“Russia has good developments in the field of weapons. But their production and combat use turned out to be a complete failure. Those who criticize NATO tanks in comparison with Russian models exhibited at gun shows do not take into account the fact that Russians fight on the battlefield in completely different vehicles. Yes, you must have superiority over the enemy, but superiority is not only expressed in the weapons at your disposal. The motivation of the personnel and the competence of the commanders in the deployment of weapons and manpower are important here. In all these categories, Ukraine far exceeds Russia. And if she gets additional weapons that she can deploy anywhere on the front line, she will only benefit,” Paul Goble stressed.

On Friday, Berlin approved German gunsmith Rheinmetall’s plan to sell 88 Leopard 1s to Kiev for a total of more than 100 million euros. The move also marks a shift in German tank policy for Ukraine, nine days after Scholz’s office announced it would send a company of the latest Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev as part of the European coalition. It is not yet known how soon Washington will send more than 30 Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine.

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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