Russia beat Hitler with tanks. Now it’s showing off the tank of the future.

By Ishaan Tharoor

This photo taken Monday, April 13, 2015, shows the T-14 Armata tank, with its turret covered with fabric, during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade at a shooting range outside Moscow, Russia. (Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry via AP)

Some pictures have emerged of a new-era Russian tank that’s scheduled to be debuted next week, when Russia commemorates the 70th anniversary of its victory in World War II on May 9.

The ceremony is meant to mark a somber, proud moment for Russians. Notwithstanding the efforts of other Allies, the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the Nazi war machine and suffered a staggering loss of life over the course of the war. The Battle of Kursk in 1943 was the biggest tank engagement of the conflict, and the Soviet triumph there perhaps signaled the real turning point in the war against the Third Reich.

But the heated geopolitics of the present, which finds Russia at odds with a host of Western countries, means that many world leaders such as President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel won’t be in attendance. The sacrifices of the past will be overshadowed by current tensions.

It’s in this context that Russia will roll out the Armata T-14 tank, in what’s expected to be the largest ever military parade held in the Red Square, according to the BBC.

The new tank is one of the world’s most sophisticated, with an unmanned turret and the capability to fire a range of heavy-caliber munitions. According to a U.S. military analysis, the tank crew will sit “in an armored capsule that is somewhat roomy compared to other Soviet/Russian tanks.”

A report by Russia’s RT news agency suggests the tank has “within its blueprint” the ability to “evolve into a fully robotic battle vehicle.”

The Russian military expects delivery of some 32 T-14s this year, and some 2,300 by 2020, as it moves to upgrade its contingent of tanks wholesale at a time when few Western armies can boast brand new battle tanks of their own.

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.


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