Russia’s New Main Battle Tank Is Raising Alarms in Europe
Policy + Politics

Russia’s New Main Battle Tank Is Raising Alarms in Europe

In further proof that the American election season has caused people far outside the borders of the U.S. to stress out, a British newspaper has uncovered a government document detailing a major concern about the ability of NATO forces to contend with Russia’s newest tank on the battlefield, particularly if those forces are suddenly short of American assistance.

The concerns spiked earlier this year, when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump floated the idea of extracting the U.S. from its commitments to the transatlantic alliance which has helped keep the peace in Europe for the past seven decades.

Related: Putin’s Shiny New Tank Breaks Down

The Telegraph newspaper reports that British military analysts are particularly concerned about the ability of British and European forces to contend with the new Armata T-14 tank that Russia rolled out last year under President Vladimir Putin’s sharp increase in spending on military hardware.

A classified briefing paper obtained by the newspaper warns that the new weapon is currently peerless on the battlefield. “Without hyperbole, Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century.”

Among the things that make the Armata so remarkable is a completely automated turret system. The top element of the vehicle, where the main gun and some smaller weapons are located, is operated by crew members who are in an armored pod underneath and in front of it. This differs from traditional tanks, where some crew members are inside the turret operating the weapons and are therefore more exposed to harm.

In addition, the tank is believed to boast a new and more powerful main gun than anything Russia’s potential rivals can put in the field. New armor design also makes it lighter and faster, and it has an active defense system meant to protect it from most guided anti-tank weaponry.

Related: Putin’s Got a Cool New Tank: How Many Can He Afford?

The Kremlin-backed news and propaganda website RT gloated over the story after it appeared in British papers, taunting the UK as “threatened and amazed” by the Armata.

However, some experts say it’s a little too soon to get worked up about the T-14. First of all, it’s not really in active service yet. The Kremlin only just ordered the first 100 from the manufacturer, and it will take time, possibly years, to bring mass production online.

But given the country’s dire financial situation, it’s a very real question whether the Kremlin will be able to afford T-14s in numbers that would really affect the balance of power in Eastern Europe.

“There is an irony to the British report, and similar such publications by military establishments bemoaning their land forces, in that the Russian Ministry of Defense can no more afford to replace its armor fleet with Armatas than anyone else,” defense analyst Mike Kofman told The National Interest.