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In a move that Russia is likely to interpret as an escalation, French President Emmanuel Macron agreed on Wednesday to provide French-made AMX-10 RC light tanks to Ukraine. Macron is the first Western leader to provide tanks to the war-torn country.
The tanks were designed in the 1980s and are currently being phased out of the French military. Until this week, Macron has refused to provide armor to Ukraine for fear of escalating already mounting tensions with Russia.
Despite France's hesitation to send tanks in the past, the Western country has provided Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with air defense systems, artillery, armored vehicles, and anti-aircraft missiles. In addition to providing arms to Ukraine, Macron has been one of the only European leaders to consistently call for peace negotiations between Moscow and Kiev to attempt to bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution.
The transition from encouraging peace negotiations to now providing armored tanks is a clear indication that hopes of negotiation are dwindling among Western leaders. A French presidential aide told reporters that "The president wanted to increase aid [to Ukraine] by accepting to deliver AMX-10 RC light tanks." The aid continued, "It is the first time that Wester-designed tanks are supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces."
In response to the gesture, Zelensky wrote on Twitter, "Had a long and detailed conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron on the current situation. Thanked for the decision to transfer light tanks and Bastion APCs to Ukraine, as well as for intensifying work with partners in the same direction."
Days after Macron's commitment to send tanks, U.S. President Joe Biden agreed to send Bradley M2s to Kiev. Germany also vowed to send Marder IFVs to Zelensky, which is a bit risky given that Germany has had to move its Marder vehicles to the front-line service after the tanks purchased to replace them have had numerous problems and have been deemed unusable in actual battle.
Previously this year, Germany reversed its long-standing policy to not send or sell weapons in combat zones after the invasion of Ukraine last February. Following the invasion, Germany also announced that it would finally begin to meet its NATO spending requirements for its military, after having neglected its military for years.
While Western leaders continue to hope for a peaceful end to the war in Ukraine, it appears that multiple countries are preparing to support Ukraine for the long haul, given the refusal of either side to negotiate a peaceful end.