Morocco Supports Ukraine With Tank Sale
Morocco will become the first African nation to offer military support to Ukraine with the sale of T-72 tanks.
Under the deal, the United States and Netherlands will buy 90 T-72B main battle tanks from Morocco with an option to add 30 tanksto the sale in 2023, according to Nigerian news website moneycentral.com.ng.
The tanks will be sent to Ukraine after they are modernized by Czechoslovakian company Excalibur Army. More than 20 tanks were to be shipped by late December. Morocco also is sending spare tank parts to Ukraine.
The move is being viewed as a change in stance for Morocco, which abstained from a United Nations vote to condemn the Russian invasion in March 2022. Of the 54 African countries represented in the U.N., 28 voted in favor of the resolution.
Calling the sale a “distinctive blow” to Russia’s persuasion efforts in Africa, The New Africa Channel said “Russia has made significant investments in efforts to maintain Africa’s neutrality and perhaps tilt its affinity towards the Kremlin.” These included opening five cultural centers known as “Russia Houses” and a continentwide propaganda campaign, The New Africa Channel reported.
The tanks modernized by Excalibur Army are equipped with thermal imagers, night vision systems and new armor. They also are fitted with explosive-reactive armor kits mounted on the front, sides and roof.
Ukraine has sought Moroccan tanks and spare parts to augment its supply of tanks since 2015.
Although it is unclear whether more African nations will support Ukraine as it seeks to defend itself from Russian attacks, Ukraine has tried to rally support on the continent.
In late December, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that new embassies would be opened in Africa in early 2023. The first one is expected to open in Ghana.
“We are restarting relations with dozens of African countries,” Zelenskyy said in a report by German news service Deutsche Welle. “Next year we must strengthen this. Ten states have already been identified where new Ukrainian embassies in Africa will be opened.”
In October, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba toured Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal in a bid to deepen diplomatic ties. It was the Ukrainian government’s first diplomatic trip to the continent in decades.
During a virtual news briefing, Kuleba accused Russia of triggering a global crisis that caused food shortages across the continent.
“Each Russian rocket is not only hitting Ukrainians, it also harms the quality of life for Africans,” Kuleba said. He also noted that Ukraine had shipped 830,000 tons of grain to Africa since July.
Although Kuleba’s trip was interrupted by heavy Russian missile strikes on civilian targets in Ukraine, observers believe the visit helped build solidarity with African governments and countered some of Russia’s propaganda. Kuleba plans to visit Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania in the first quarter of 2023.
“We must strengthen our cooperation,” Kuleba said during a visit with Senegalese Foreign Minister Aïssata Tall Sall. “Our future depends on the relationships we build and what happens every day.”