• T-72B tanks will be diverted to Ukraine after pressure from U.S. and E.U.
  • Morocco will have the option to order other military equipment
  • Despite close trade relations with Russia, Morocco has shared strong ties with the West

Breaking away from African neutrality in the ongoing war in Ukraine, Morocco has decided to allow the transfer of its modernized T-72B tanks to Kyiv. The move appears to be taken by Morocco after pressure from the United States and the European Union.

The Moroccan government reportedly agreed to divert 90 T-72B tanks, which are being extensively modernized by Czech company Excalibur Army, to Ukraine along with the transfer of spare parts and other components.

While there is no official confirmation from Morocco yet, Czech news portal Novinky reported the tanks were ordered by an "African country," which then will be diverted to Ukraine.

Without naming any country, Excalibur Army's commercial director, Richard Kubena, purportedly told local media the company undertook a "large order for the modernization of up to 120 T-72 MBT, which comes from an African country."

The first batch of five tanks will be delivered to Ukraine within a week and another 18 units will be transported by the end of this month, according to reports. Excalibur Army further said it would send 90 "African" tanks to Ukraine as part of an approximately $97 million deal funded by the U.S. and the Netherlands. The company also discussed the option to purchase another 30 units next year.

The U.S. and the Netherlands agreed to share the cost of refurbishing 90 T-72Bs for Ukraine, The War Zone reported in November. It became clear later that the tanks being diverted to Ukraine were originally meant for Morocco.

Justifying the reason for sending refurbished Soviet-era tanks instead of modern Western tanks, such as the M1 Abrams, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh reportedly said Ukrainians effectively know how to use these tanks on the battlefield.

"Introducing a new main battle tank is extremely costly, it's time-sensitive, and it would be a huge undertaking for the Ukrainian forces," Singh added.

While the T-72 belongs to a family of Soviet-era main battle tanks that entered into production in 1969, the T-72B is a modified version that includes a new gun, armor, enhanced stabilization, and firepower, along with night vision and crew protection.

In exchange for allowing the diversion of T-72B tanks, Morocco will reportedly have the option to order other military equipment.

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Morocco has tried to maintain a neutral stance. Rabat chose to stay away during the UN General Assembly's March 2022 vote that condemned the Russian invasion on Ukraine.

Morocco's recent decision also comes as a significant setback for Russia's attempts to foster African neutrality with its narrative of fighting against Western imperialism. Despite its close commercial ties with Russia - as Moscow's third-largest trading partner in Africa - Morocco has shared close ties with the West. The country was designated as a major non-NATO ally in 2004.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands on a tank loaded at a military truck, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Donbas region, Ukraine July 12, 2022.
Representational Image: A Ukrainian serviceman stands on a tank loaded at a military truck, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Donbas region, Ukraine July 12, 2022. Reuters / GLEB GARANICH