Russia-Ukraine: Two years of war
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What We’re Watching: Tank talks for Ukraine, South Africa’s military moves

Image released by the Ministry of Defence of Britain shows file video of UK's Challenger 2 tanks.

Image released by the Ministry of Defence of Britain shows file video of UK's Challenger 2 tanks.


Much ado about tanks for Ukraine

For months, Ukraine has been asking its NATO friends for modern tanks. Not Soviet-era relics from Poland, not light armored vehicles from the US and France, but heavy mechanized tanks to fight mighty Russia. But so far, only the UK has agreed to supply Kyiv with Challenger 2 tanks, which are 20 years old but the model most used by the British army. Why? The US, the big boss of NATO, has been slow-walking the Ukrainians on their demand for tanks because the Biden administration fears it might push Russia to escalate. Washington is also citing logistical and maintenance costs as part of the reason for not doing so. Germany, meanwhile, won’t send Leopard tanks — or allow other countries to send German-made tanks — until the US makes the first move by sending M1 Abrams tanks. While the Germans and the Americans try to iron out their differences, NATO defense ministers will likely press the issue on Friday when they meet US Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin in Germany. Russia, for its part, has already warned the West that giving Ukraine tanks would be a very bad idea.

Meanwhile, check out our GZERO field piece on how the tankless Ukrainians are making do with Mad Max-style killer dune buggies.

South Africa to conduct military drills with … Russia and China

In a massive blow for Washington, South Africa announced on Thursday that it will conduct joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean next month with two of the US’ foes: China and Russia. The three states last conducted a joint military venture in 2019. This announcement comes as the US is aggressively trying to woo South Africa, and offset Beijing and Moscow’s growing clout in the country – and the region. Indeed, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is also visiting Pretoria this week in hopes of boosting bilateral trade and investment. Crucially, the military venture (Feb. 17-27) will coincide with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While South Africa says its stance on the conflict is “neutral,” it has refused to back US-sponsored resolutions at the UN condemning the Kremlin’s actions. That’s in large part because President Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National Congress Party has longstanding ties with the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile, South Africa-China trade continues to surge. The US, however, still has its work cut out for it in convincing African leaders that its interests go beyond simply trying to counter rivals’ influence in the region.


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