Morocco is jettisoning it’s neutral stance in the Russian-Ukraine conflict, to supply arms to Kiev.
Rabat had earlier chosen to back a de facto African-sponsored neutrality in the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev, but has apparently succumbed to pressures from the United States.
The United States has secretly convince Morocco to deliver modernized T-72B tanks, and spare parts to Kiev.
Morocco will supply Ukraine with spare parts for T-72 tanks and will thus become the first African state to provide military assistance to Ukraine
Besides the spare parts, T-72B Main Battle Tanks modernized by Czech company Excalibur Army and intended for Morocco will be diverted to Ukraine.
Richard Kubena, the company’s commercial director, told the media that, Excalibur Army is currently “focused on a large order for the modernization of up to 120 T-72 MBT, which come from an African country.”
The purchase of “African” tanks for shipment to Ukraine is paid for by the United States and the Netherlands under an agreement totaling 2.2 billion rubles. CZK (slightly more than 90 million euros).
Kubena notes that the first five MBTs will be received next week, and by the end of the year it is planned to prepare 18 units for shipment. In total, 90 “African” T-72 MBTs are expected to be delivered to Ukraine, plus another 30 MBTs as an option, which will be purchased next year.
The Czech Ministry of Defense, said regarding the arms transfer that “the final customer has satisfied the request of the above-mentioned countries and considers the agreement reached on the transfer of tanks (in exchange for other equipment) as assistance to the government of Ukraine.”
Morocco which is wary of Russia’s continued support for regional rival Algeria, have chosen to send arms to Kiev to spite Moscow.
Rabat had earlier maintained a neutral stance by abstaining during the UN General Assembly’s March 2022 vote to deplore Russian aggression in Ukraine. Morocco was among the 25 out of 54 African states that abstained or did not vote in that UN resolution.
At the time, Morocco advocated for “respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and national unity of all United Nations member states”, in a meeting with NATO and allies of the United States, in Germany to discuss increased military aid to Zelensky’s government.
Shortly after Morocco attended the summit, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Algeria, where he declared that both Russia and Algeria “see eye to eye on all key issues of international politics.”
Tensions between Algeria and Morocco have been growing lately, resulting in the former severing its diplomatic ties with the latter in August 2021.
The two North African countries disagree about the political status of the Western Sahara, which Morocco claims. An independence movement in Algeria, known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front), comprising the indigenous Sahrawi tribe, asserts a claim on the land.
Western Sahara is under Morocco’s occupation after the Kingdom of Morocco annexed it in two stages in 1976 and 1979. However, it is not considered a legal part of Morocco according to International Law.
Algeria has historically had close defense ties with Moscow, dating back to the Soviet era, and those ties have only strengthened in recent years.
The T-72 tank deal was negotiated by the United States and Europe Union, the Czech Ministry of Defense decided to supply the upgraded T-72 tanks for Morocco to Ukraine.
Around 20 years ago, Morocco purchased from Belarus a batch of 136 T-72B battle tanks, including 12 commander T-72BKS and spare parts for them
By the end of this decade, Morocco had 40 operational T-72B tanks and 62 in storage. But in the new deal, Morocco could order other military equipment produced by the Czech company Excalibur.
Since 2015, Ukraine has been asking Morocco to purchase these main battle tanks to augment it’s plethora of Soviet-made tanks.
The war with Russia has depleted Ukraine’s stock of main battle tanks, and in a November interview, Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podoliak spoke about the needs of the Ukrainian army in military assistance from partner countries to help it restore the territorial integrity of the country by military means.
“We still need 150 to 200 tanks, about 300 armoured vehicles, 100 artillery systems, 50-70 multiple rocket launcher systems, including the formidable American HIMARS, of which Ukraine already has several pieces, as well as 10 to 15 anti-aircraft defence systems to close the sky,” said Mr. Podoliak.
Excalibur army developed a modernized version of the Soviet-made T-72 tank equipped with thermal imagers, night vision systems, and new armor.
The new Czech T-72 upgrade is fitted with an ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) kit mounted at the front and on the sides of the hull as well as the front and the roof of the turret.