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Opinion Don’t lose sight of the emotional impact of tanks in Ukraine

A woman stands in front of a group of destroyed Russian tanks and armoured vehicles in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, on Jan. 20. (Daniel Cole/AP)

Lost in the debate about the efficacy of sending tanks to Ukraine is their emotional impact [“Why Germany is under particular pressure to send tanks to front lines,” news, Jan. 20]. As a retired Army officer and former M1 tank commander, I can assure you that there are few things more fear-inducing than crossing an open field and seeing the turret of a 60-ton enemy tank slew in your direction as the fully stabilized cannon locks on to your chest. Main battle tanks (distinguished from light tanks with lighter armor and a smaller gun) are unique on the battlefield in the fear and comfort they project — depending on which side of the turret you are on.

It is true that tanks can be vulnerable and are not a silver bullet for tactical victory. (Just ask the Russians.) They need to be employed correctly, in a combined arms formation and with the right logistics tail. But the sight of a column of main battle tanks moving from the port, to a staging area to the battlefield is a powerful visual that sends a message beyond the physical weapon itself.

Whether strategically or tactically, it is an incredible emotional lift for a beleaguered fighting force when the big tanks arrive. And the American M1 will send that message louder than any other NATO tank. There will be training and logistics issues with M1s on the battlefield, there always are, but simply having them in Ukraine will send a uniquely powerful message of support. The Ukrainians more than deserve that support, and the comfort of that big turret pointed at their enemies.

Charles Rumrill, Fairfax