It didn’t take long for Russian officials to start foaming at the mouth and ranting about global conspiracies after Germany agreed to deliver its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine on Wednesday.
After weeks of resistance, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that, along with allies, the country would provide 88 of the battle tanks to Ukraine, effectively giving Kyiv more firepower to launch new offensives. The Biden administration was also expected to announce a deal to send 30 M1 Abrams tanks to the country.
The Russian Embassy in Berlin was among the first out of the gate after the news broke—offering a bizarre, if not deranged, take: “Berlin’s decision signifies the unequivocal refusal of the Federal Republic of Germany to recognize historical responsibility to our people for the terrible, timeless crimes of Nazism,” Russian Ambassador Sergei Nechayev said in a statement.
The statement went on to say the tanks would also put an end to “postwar reconciliation between Russians and Germans” and “take the conflict to a new level of confrontation.”
Kremlin mouthpiece Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of RT, joined Russian diplomats in offering up far-fetched Nazi comparisons.
“After a flogging by Washington, Germany will send 14 tanks to Ukraine. Closer to summer, deliveries of gas chambers are also expected,” Simonyan tweeted.
TV propagandist Vladimir Solovyov called European leaders “Nazi scumbags” and argued that the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine makes all of Germany a “legitimate” military target for Russia.
He claimed Germany has “forgotten its historical guilt” and must pay for it.
Sergei Aksyonov, the Kremlin’s man in charge in occupied Crimea—one of the territories Ukrainian authorities may use the tanks to take back—published what he said were the schematics of Germany’s Leopard 2A4 tank on Telegram.
“I am sure that everyone will be able to find more detailed information about the vulnerabilities of this… on their own, and the command will provide our fighters with everything necessary to destroy the descendants of the fascist ‘Tiger’ and ‘Panther’ [tanks used in WWII],” Aksyonov wrote.
Pro-Kremlin pundits unanimously bent themselves into knots (and broke their brains) trying to prove a global Nazi conspiracy.
“Tank conspiracy. 14 Challenger tanks will be supplied by Britain to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. And it was also announced that Germany will supply the Armed Forces of Ukraine with 14 Leopard tanks. Is this some kind of secret number they have, 14? It turns out yes. 14 is a secret fascist number,” wrote political analyst Sergei Markov, noting that 14 “is the number of words” in two slogans used decades ago by the American neo-Nazi David Lane.
“Thus, the number of Challenger and Leopard tanks is a secret message from the governments of Britain and Germany: ‘We know that these tanks are for the Nazis,’” Markov said.
He did not explain how his “14” theory holds up in light of several other countries sending an entirely different number of tanks.
Is 30—the number of Abrams tanks reportedly to be supplied by the U.S.—also a “secret” fascist number? The Kremlin has yet to confirm, though Vladimir Putin’s spokesman on Wednesday blasted the purported deal for U.S. tanks as “absurd” and bound to fail.
“This is a really disastrous plan, and most importantly, this is a clear overestimation of the potential this will give to the armed forces of Ukraine,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
The Abrams tanks, he said, “will burn just like all the others.”
Despite Peskov’s bluster, some pro-Kremlin military bloggers appeared fully aware the tanks could give Ukrainian forces a new competitive edge on the battlefield.
“The ice has broken and NATO tanks are heading to Ukraine. It looks like all the arguments about who would be the first to send them led to everyone sending them all at once,” wrote one popular pro-war Telegram channel.
Other prominent figures appeared to suggest the decision to send tanks simply means the rest of the world isn’t frightened enough of Russia.
“Russia’s impotence in the field of foreign policy must be compensated for with military successes. Or the threat of military success. Or just a threat,” argued state TV host Sergei Mardan.
“Why not then arrange a random visit to Estonia of a Russian tank squadron, or a guided-missile cruiser in the Gulf of Riga? Or a random flight of Kalibr [cruise missiles] over all of Poland? Then we don’t even need to apologize, no one needs our apologies. We need local horror and an understanding that Russia is unavoidably nearby and stronger than ever.”