Russian troops can receive 170 thousand dollars for capturing a Ukrainian tank. Don’t expect to pay a lot.

Imagine you are a 60-year-old Russian conscript who has just arrived on the front lines in Ukraine after only a month of half-hearted training.

Your weapons are leftovers from the 60 year old cold war. Your battalion loses many men every time it tries to advance. Your commander is housed in an abandoned Ukrainian house miles away and rarely visits. Artillery support seems to be decreasing.

You could be forgiven for feeling… demoralized. Especially since your Ukrainian enemies are acquiring more and more Western-made high-tech equipment. Leopard 2, M-1 and Challenger 2 tanks. High mobility artillery missile systems.

Would the prospect of a big cash bonus, possibly tens of thousands of dollars, motivate you to jump into battle and target a Ukrainian tank?

Fores, a Russian company that sells oil production supplies, earlier this year offered Russian and allied fighter jets a reward of five million roubles, about $72,000, for capturing an intact American-made M-1 or German Leopard 2 aircraft. That’s four. even what the average Russian earns in a year.

The Pavel Sudoplatov Battalion, an international volunteer unit fighting alongside Russian forces in southern Ukraine, doubled in size at Fores’ suggestion.

The battalion last month offered to pay 12 million rubles for each operational Leopard 2, M-1 or Challenger 2 tank. That’s $170,000, or almost a decade’s salary.

Russian officials praised the private awards. “As for these tanks, we have already said that they will be burned,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “With such incentives, I think there will be more enthusiasts.”

Now, the Kremlin itself appears to be offering rewards, the independent Conflict Intelligence Team reported on Friday. CIT highlighted a recent social media post by the mayor of the southern Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

The mayor passed on a reward offer from the Russian Ministry of Defense of 500,000 rubles or $6.5000 for the destruction of a Leopard 2, Abrams or Challenger 2 tank. 300,000 rubles – $3,900 for each HIMARS and Tochka-U missile launcher knocks out a Russian or allied soldier. 200,000 rubles or $2,600 for a helicopter, 100,000 rubles or $1,300 for an older tank.

It is likely that neither Fores, nor Pavel Sudoplatov’s battalion, nor the Kremlin will pay much or any reward. It’s not like the Leopard 2, M-1 or Challenger 2 are indestructible. It is safe to assume that Russian forces will eventually capture or destroy 71 Leopard 2s, 31 M-1s and 14 Challenger 2s that Kiev’s allies have so far pledged for the war. The first of them, ex-Polish Leopard 2s, are already in Ukraine.

But the biggest threats to tanks on both sides of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine are artillery and mines. Good luck if a tank kill is attributed to a soldier when that tank is either hit by a minefield that could have hundreds of mines, or mistakenly turned into an artillery barrage involving entire batteries of big guns manned by multiple gunners. :

Intact captured tanks can actually yield rewards, but rarely if history is any guide. During 13 months of fighting, Russian forces captured 146 Ukrainian tanks. Soviet vintage T-64s, mostly. It is unclear how many were in working condition when they fell into the hands of the Russians.

But even after the first batches of Leopard 2s, M-1s and Challenger 2s arrive at the front, these Western-made tanks will represent only a tenth of Ukraine’s armored vehicles. Suppose the Russians capture another 150 Ukrainian tanks in the next year of war. There may only be a dozen or so western models.

Of course, private and public rewards do not need to be paid to serve their purpose. All Russian and allied troops need to believe they can earn a large salary and behave accordingly.

But perhaps the pro-Russian establishment misunderstands what motivates most soldiers to fight. In a 2003 study for the US Army War College, Leonard Wong, Thomas Colditz, Raymond Millen and Terence Potter rediscovered something that historians had long understood.

“US soldiers today, like soldiers of the past, fight for each other,” they wrote. “Unit cohesion is alive and well.”

Imagine again that you are a 60-year-old Russian conscript who has just arrived on the front lines in Ukraine after only a month of half-hearted training. You barely know your battalion mates. They hardly know you.

No cohesion to speak of. So how motivated are you to fight, even with a huge cash bonus hanging on the line if you get down on your luck and knock out or capture a Ukrainian tank?

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