How Western Tank Supplies Ruined Russia's Propaganda Rhetoric

February 2, 2023
January 25, 2023 was marked by news about Ukraine’s Western partners finally agreeing to supply the country with modern tanks.

In particular, after long negotiations, Germany agreed to provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks, while US President Joe Biden also announced that his country would send Abrams Abrams tanks.

These events completely spoiled the narratives Russian propaganda had been pushing about the West "losing interest" in Ukraine and about " conflict between the EU and the US over weapon supplies to Ukraine." However, Russian propagandists created new narratives about the West and tanks provision to Ukraine.

First, Russian propaganda tried to assure their audiences that the new Western tanks were inferior to Russia's. It thus pushed new messages about various reasons why Western tanks would be "ineffective," : arguing that Ukrainians lack the technology and qualifications to operate them.

It is interesting to note that such assurances about the West's weapons being useless in Ukrainian hands has appeared every time the West has announced the delivery of a new weapons system, like when HIMARS and NASAMS were delivered (and subsequently put to spectacularly effective use). Before this, Russian propagandists also told their audiences that the West "would never deliver these systems to Ukraine out of fear of provoking Russia."

Secondly, in contrast to messages about the "ineffectiveness" of the Western weapons, Russian propaganda has also pushed the narrative that the West "is escalating its war with Russia" and "crossed red lines."

The main aim is either to blame the West and Ukraine for the war, legitimise further war crimes and attacks on Ukraine, and even threaten the world with WWIII and nuclear weapons. It is also essential to note that Russian propagandists often invoke history and accuse the West of "forgetting Russia's victory against Nazism" or claim that "Nazism has arisen again, so Russia has to fight it."

This approach aims to appeal to the Russian national ego and encourage more support for the country's war of aggression against Ukraine.

Finally, Russian propagandists also began pushing narratives that people in Europe "don't want to be a part of a war with Russia" and are in fact against providing military aid to Ukraine. These messages also help to strengthen the general narrative about "the West that is tired of Ukraine" and that "the war in Ukraine is making people in the West poor."

Another interesting aspect of this is that Russian propagandists argue that people in Ukraine - in cities which are under constant Russian attacks - actually do not support receiving Western tanks and "don't want to fight with their brothers" from Russia. This rhetoric aims at legitimising Russia's war crimes and creating a reality where Ukrainians are still "a part of Russia" and actually want to be reunited with it.

To sum up, Russian propagandists aim to downplay the effectiveness of the Western weapons in contrast to Russian ones while also threatening the world with war over the supply of these supposedly ineffective weapons. As soon as Ukraine gets new weapons or begins winning on the battlefield, Russia makes threats and boasts of their own mythical power and invincibility. However, despite all their efforts, this has never actually worked out for them.

Analyst and Journalist at UkraineWorld

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