Pressure on Athens to send tanks to Ukraine

Pressure on Athens to send tanks to Ukraine

With the center of gravity of the war in Ukraine moving to the east, Ukraine is calling on the West, including Greece, for supplies of armored vehicles.

Despite Athens having repeatedly stated that military aid to Ukraine has been completed with the deployment of Kalashnikovs, RPG-18 anti-tank rocket launchers and ammunition in the early days of the Russian invasion, it has now come under pressure to cede to Ukraine BMP-1 tracked armored infantry fighting vehicles, which remain in service and serve some needs of the infantry. 

Out of a number of about 500 vehicles, an estimated 100 to 150 remain in the arsenal of Greece’s armed forces. It is not clear how many of them are actually operating. These particular BMP-1s were acquired in the early 1990s from the reserves of the former East German Army.

Athens had in the past sent some of these vehicles to Iraq, while a few years ago several were sold to Egypt. 

In any case, the BMP-1s and Osa-AK short-range anti-aircraft systems are the only ones that could be granted without licensing problems, as their export approval from Berlin is considered a given, unlike the situation with the S-300 or Tor-M1 systems, which require a permit from Moscow.

Athens’ reserved attitude to the pressures is mainly political and not operational, as the the supply of BMP-1s could be combined with negotiations to replace them from US Armed Forces stockpiles. 

After all, following the bipartisan legislation titled the US-Greece Defense and Interparliamentary Partnership Act of 2021, backed by senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio to support Greece’s military modernization, the country has joined the European Recapitalization Incentive Program for the period 2022-26.

The program provides assistance of $25 million a year to decouple armed forces from Russian-made weapons systems.

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