Russia’s Cease-Fire Appears to Have Little Early Effect: Live Updates

Credit…Francois Nascimbeni/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Armored reconnaissance and fighting vehicles that France promised this week to send to Ukraine will not alone change the tide in the war, experts said on Thursday, nor do they risk crossing a Russian red line to incite President Vladimir V. Putin.

After President Emmanuel Macron of France pledged to deliver what his office termed in a statement as light combat tanks, officials later confirmed that Mr. Macron was referring to AMX-10 RC reconnaissance vehicles, which France is phasing out from its military.

Jack Watling, a land warfare expert at the Wilson Center in Washington and the Royal United Services Institute in London, said that while any mobile firepower that allies can give to Ukraine would be helpful, the French vehicles would not by themselves make a huge difference in the war.

“It isn’t a game changer,” Mr. Watling said. However, he said, it could encourage “other NATO members to transfer more armored vehicles — which will be very useful for offensive operations later this year.”

And Édouard Jolly, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Research of the Ecole Militaire in Paris, said that the AMX-10 RC was “useful on the battlefield, without being a decisive weapon.”

France’s pledge was more significant, he said in an interview on Thursday, as a signal of its renewed support for Ukraine, which could push other countries to send their own. Indeed, shortly after the interview, Germany and the United States announced that they were also sending armored vehicles, as well as another Patriot missile system.

Other NATO states already have sent armored vehicles to Ukraine, including Soviet- or Russian-made tanks from countries in Eastern Europe, and personnel carriers and support trucks from allies farther West.

And despite Mr. Macron’s statement, some experts cautioned against describing the French vehicles as tanks, noting that their light armor renders them unable to withstand anything heavier than small-arms fire. They have large guns like those on tanks, but run on tires rather than tank treads.

“If the Ukrainians were to use it in the same way they would use a tank, it would be quite vulnerable, and they would probably suffer quite heavy losses,” said Sonny Butterworth, a tank expert and senior analyst at Janes, a defense intelligence firm.

The French reconnaissance vehicles appear to be the first Western-made armored vehicles equipped with large-caliber guns that have been sent to Ukraine, Mr. Butterworth said. That may represent only a narrow expansion of Ukraine’s capabilities, but it could also signal what will be needed as the war grinds on.

In the coming year, “Ukraine is going to have to try to retake back more of its territory from Russia,” he said. “And tanks and armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles are considered vital components in this kind of modern war, especially against Russia.”

Nikolai Sokov, an expert at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation and a former Russian diplomat, said that Moscow was more likely to react harshly to Western deliveries of long-range missiles to Ukraine, like the Patriot advanced ground-based air defense system that the Biden administration committed last month. On Thursday, the United States and Germany announced they would send a second Patriot system.

Heavy tanks, like the American-made M1 Abrams and the German Leopard 2, also “could give the Ukrainians a qualitative edge” and incur a violent response from Russia, Mr. Sokov said.

“I do not see any specific type of new risk associated with the French deliveries,” Mr. Sokov said.

However, he said, it was nearly impossible to know what the tipping point would be, “in the absence of very definitively drawn red lines.”

“The trouble is that when you advance in these small kinds of steps, most likely you will not know that you have crossed the red line,” he said. “So that’s the danger — it’s a very highly uncertain situation.”

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.

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