According to a recent report by The Times, the British military destroyed 43 Challenger 2 tanks between 2010 and 2014, instead of sending them to Ukraine to assist in its conflict with Russia. The disposal of these tanks cost £4.3 million and was deemed necessary as the tanks were in a condition that was “beyond any economic repair”. The decision to destroy the tanks was made before Crimea voted to rejoin Russia, and before relations between Moscow and the West deteriorated.
It is worth noting that the British military has been criticized for underestimating the importance of tanks on the modern battlefield. In the mid-1990s, the defense ministry procured 386 Challenger 2 tanks, but this number was reduced by 40% as part of the 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review. Currently, Britain plans to further reduce its tank fleet to 148, while upgrading to the new Challenger 3 version.
The disposal of these tanks has drawn criticism from some, including Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the defense select committee, who argued that they should have been sent to Ukraine instead. So far, the UK has provided Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2 tanks, but there have been no reports of their use by Ukraine, which has instead deployed German-made Leopard 2 tanks and American Bradley fighting vehicles.
The US and its allies have also provided Ukraine with tanks, APCs, and other hardware in anticipation of a counteroffensive against Russia. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly dismissed these efforts, and has claimed that Western armor “will burn” on the battlefield. Moscow maintains that Ukraine’s assaults have not yielded significant gains thus far.
In response to the Western support for Ukraine, Putin announced in March that Russia plans to produce or modernize around 1,600 tanks over the next three years.
The Times also quoted Maj. Gen. Charles Collins, the assistant chief of the general staff, who stated that Britain should have the “strategic humility” to accept that it cannot fight a major war on its own anymore due to military drawdowns.
Russia has consistently criticized the supply of foreign weapons to Ukraine, arguing that it only prolongs the conflict without preventing Moscow from achieving its military objectives. The Kremlin asserts that the assistance provided by the US, EU, and other Western nations makes them de facto parties to the conflict.
In conclusion, the UK’s decision to destroy 43 Challenger 2 tanks instead of sending them to Ukraine has been met with criticism. The British military’s underestimation of the importance of tanks on the modern battlefield raises questions about its strategic approach. However, despite receiving military support from the UK and other Western countries, Ukraine has not made significant gains against Russia, according to Moscow. The ongoing conflict highlights the complexities and tensions between the various parties involved.