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Bulwark article suggests Russia had acquired an export M1 Abrams in 1994, BS or possibly true?


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I apologize for this question not being entirely SB related but I had nowhere else to ask it.




General Hertling (former) claims to have gone to Russia in 1994 under a liaison trip of sorts and during his visit was taken to a "secret armor museum" which included, of all things, an M1 Abrams of unspecified model, "likely from one of their allies in the Middle East" and several other designs.


This claim is extremely doubtful for several reasons and I'm surprised that not a single other article on the entire internet has popped up supporting or disproving this claim. The first problem is that I can't find any source for a sale of Abrams tanks prior to 1994 - Kuwait was apparently the first country to receive them, that very year, and they are not what I'd describe as a "Russian ally".


The second is that it isn't noted whether or not the attendees were allowed in these "vehicles" to verify their authenticity or if they were simply accurate mockups (externally).


The third is that Hertling's claim is the only such one on the internet I can find, and he hasn't repeated it anywhere else.


Considering the enormous security implications of a foreign power having at least one M1 tank - the exact same year they were first exported to a close US ally - and that this apparently set off no alarm bells anywhere within the DoD or US government - makes all of this pretty fishy. I don't have a Twitter account so I have no way to ask Mr Hertling about this, but I strongly suspect the vehicles he was shown were mockups to train Russian crews on identification.


Correct: Steven Zaloga notes that the first export M1s were delivered to Saudi Arabia in 1993

Edited by Richardguy
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Given the many US tanks that were used in the middle east, and the fact that some fell into ISIS hands, I wouldn't be surprised at all if one or two copies made their way to Russia. I would also dispute that this would have "enormous security implications". Sure, it'd be nicer if everybody was left guessing, but once that you send weapons into a war zone, you'll eventually lose some either as a result of battle damage, or because they get captured (just like we try to capture some of their tanks, e.g. think of the T-72 trials that were done in 1991 when Germany inherited the whole East German stockpile, just as Operation Desert Storm was brewing in the Gulf region, resulting in some emergency issuing of "silver bullets" to the 105mm tank gun equipped M60 fleet of the USMC).

Even if you don't capture a single tank - when you get to shoot them often enough you know immediately if you need better ammo.

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Sure, but even then ... say, it was an Egyptian tank. Egypt was a Soviet client state for two or three decades. Surely they have built up their network of open and covert Soviet (then Russian) supporters. Few armies are without corruption. Whether it's espionage or espionage utilizing corruption, even tanks can "disappear", be moved on a ship in the middle of the night, put under wraps, and steam out for Sevastopol by daybreak. Obviously that's not how it's supposed to be. At the same time one shouldn't make the mistake believing that, when after the death of Anwar al-Sadat the Egyptian government decided to build an alliance with the US, everybody else in Egypt automatically changed their minds.

And around 1991 there were thousands of US M1s in the region, in a war against another Russian client state. Could one have disappeared? Or conversely, can we rule out with certainty that not a single one went missing/was left unaccounted for/written off as a total damage when in fact it wasn't actually quite so damaged?


Obviously I have no direct knowledge of anything that you described. But since you asked for our opinion, here's mine:

I think it's "possible". I don't know if it's "true".

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IIRC a there is a story out there that a single M1 (1980), was acquired by the USSR in the mid to late 1980s, via a situation that involved a mechanical breakdown, a rail car which was poorly guarded and some brazen GDR types acting on impulse and chance. 


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