Belgium wants to send tanks to Ukraine but sold them to a dealer
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Belgium feels solidarity with Ukraine. The country sends what it has to Kyiv. Today, when everyone is scrambling to send Leopards, Abrams, and Leclercs to war, Belgium wants too. But there are no tanks. None.
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Years ago, Brussels sold dozens of Leopard tanks to an arms dealer – Mr. Freddy Versluis. Mr. Versluis scares in 2014 15,000 euros per tank. Today the tanks are still in the same miserable condition and in the same warehouse in Tournai, but the owner is different.
Brussels wants to buy back the tanks and send them to Ukraine. But, Mr. Verslius is selling them for €500,000 each. The tanks need an upgrade and by all accounts – a profit for the arms dealer. “New chains, the engine to be checked, new shock absorbers, a new fire protection system. 500,000 euros. What do you want, to get them for free,” says the Belgian businessman.
Belgium has exhausted its tank reserves. Ms. Ludivine Dedonder, the European country’s defense minister, says that when she took office the stockpile was almost depleted. “So we have no more tanks to give to Ukraine,” she says.
Mr. Verslius says there is no way to give the tanks to Ukraine. According to him, the technical and operational condition is so bad that “I wouldn’t advise anyone to just send it to Ukraine.” Also, according to market estimates, 500,000 euros is the approximate price of such a tank at the moment – secondhand after repair. Mr. Verslius says that €500,000 does not make the tank expensive.
In fact, Belgium is not the only country with poorly maintained Leopard tanks. Spain had good intentions already in the summer of 2022 to send its Leopards to Ukraine. But those then selected for possible re-export were in such poor condition that Kyiv’s envoy refused to accept them, even though the EU was willing to finance their repair.
Belgium has been reducing its military budget in recent years. The country has never given up tanks, “but within the budgetary context at this point, we made a choice. Defense resources were greatly reduced and tanks are tied to a lot of logistics. Tanks are the tip of the iceberg because you also need armored infantry vehicles, armored engineering vehicles, and artillery”. These are the words of Lieutenant General Marc Thies, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Belgian Army.
The Belgian defense tries to cope with what it can. According to Belgian General Thies, the effort is great and every day has to be a kind of struggle to maintain the operational capability of the army. General Thies also says that the war in Ukraine between Russia and Ukraine is not a sprint, but an ultramarathon. “This conflict will continue for a long time and will require sustained efforts from the entire Western bloc.”
Belgium officially announced that “for the time being it will not supply tanks to Ukraine”. However, Brussels confirmed that talks between Mr. Verslius and the Belgian government were continuing. At some point, it is possible that there will be a deal and that Belgium will provide for a delayed shipment of Leopardi to Ukraine.
Belgium will most likely continue to supply the Ukrainian army with ammunition and transport trucks. Delivery of anti-tank missiles is also included in the next package for Kyiv.
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