The first of Poland’s promised Leopard 2 tanks are in Ukraine. More tanks from the U.S. and allied countries will be arriving in country over the next several weeks.
The modern armor is expected to play a critical role in Ukraine’s pending spring counteroffensive. U.S.-made Abrams tanks and the German Leopard 2s are two of the most advanced tanks on the planet.
Russia’s top commanders are well aware of that fact, which is why they’re setting more than just their sights on the Western tanks; they’re offering cash rewards for their capture as well.
Forbes reported that a Russian oil company called Fores started offering around $70,000 to soldiers for the intact capture of an Abrams or Leopard 2 tank. At that time, the bounty was four times what the average Russian makes in a year.
In February 2023, another group raised the bounty to $170,000 and included Britain’s Challenger 2s in the tanks for cash scheme. The idea of offering cash bounties was praised by the Kremlin, and now it seems Moscow wants to get in on the action as well.
The government’s bounties are for destroyed tanks. According to a report from the Conflict Intelligence Team, the Russian Ministry of Defense is offering:
- $6500 to destroy a Leopard, Abrams or Challenger tank
- $3900 for HIMARS and similar rockets systems
- $2600 for a helicopter
- $1300 for older tanks
The likelihood Russia pays out a bounty to individual soldiers for destroying enemy armor and vehicles is slim. Most of the destroyed Ukrainian armor and vehicles were a result of Russian artillery and minefields. That means proving which soldier is responsible for destroying individual pieces of equipment could be nearly impossible.
However, there is a chance Russia could capture Western tanks. If that happens, more enemy nations than Russia would benefit. In 2022, Russia traded cash and captured weapons to Iran for a shipment of kamikaze drones. Experts have said Iran is now trying to reverse-engineer the weapons, which included U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
Since the start of the war, Russia captured 146 Ukrainian tanks. Most were from the Soviet era. Using past figures to predict future outcomes, it’s possible Russia could capture a dozen or so Western tanks in the next year of fighting.
It’s too early to tell if Russia’s bounty program for captured or destroyed Western tanks is having an impact on the battlefield. However, Russia’s military leadership may be relying too much on monetary gain as motivation for its troops. According to a U.S. Army War College study, most soldiers today fight for the people in their unit, not to achieve riches.
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Author: Ryan Robertson
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