President Joe Biden announces that the United States is sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing the administration’s previously reluctant stance on arming Kyiv with America’s most advanced tanks.
The president said the United States would also send parts and equipment needed to maintain the tank battalion and train Ukrainian forces in their use. However, it will still take months for the tanks to be delivered.
The US announcement is in coordination with an announcement from Germany that it has approved Poland’s request to transfer German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
The German government announced on Wednesday that it will initially supply Ukraine with a company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, amounting to 14 vehicles. The goal is for Germany and its allies to supply Ukraine with 88 German-made Leopards, which include two battalions.
“It is the result of intensive consultations, once again, with our allies and international partners,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a speech to German lawmakers.
By agreeing to send the Abrams at an as-yet-undetermined time as part of the assistance initiative, the administration was able to meet Scholz’s request for an American commitment without having to send the tanks immediately. Scholz had insisted that any decision to supply Ukraine with powerful Leopard 2 tanks had to be made in conjunction with Germany’s allies, primarily the United States. By forcing Washington to commit some of its own tanks, Berlin hopes to share the risk of a violent reaction from Russia.
The United States has so far resisted supplying its own M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, citing significant and complex maintenance and logistical issues with the high-tech vehicles. Washington thinks it would be more productive to send in German Leopards because many allies have them and Ukrainian troops would need less training than on the tougher Abrams.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed satisfaction with the news. Several European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s announcement allows them to transfer part of their stocks to Ukraine.
“German main battle tanks, expansion of defense support and training missions, green light for partners to supply similar weapons. I just heard about these important and timely decisions during a call with Olaf Scholz “Sincerely grateful to the Chancellor and all our friends in (Germany)” wrote Zelenskyy on Twitter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for a “just peace” during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Do you know how many parents have lost their sons and daughters on the front line? Zelensky said. “So what is peace to them? »
While Ukrainian supporters previously supplied tanks, they were Soviet models in stock from countries that were once within Moscow’s sphere of influence but are now aligned with the West. Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials insisted that their forces needed more modern Western tanks to defeat Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Germany’s decision. “At a critical time in Russia’s war, these can help Ukraine defend, win and establish itself as an independent nation,” Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechayev called Berlin’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “extremely dangerous”.
The move “takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts statements by German politicians about their reluctance to get involved,” Nechayev said in a statement.
“We see once again that Germany, as well as its closest allies, are not interested in a diplomatic resolution of the Ukrainian crisis. it is determined to permanently aggravate it and indefinitely fill the Kyiv regime with lethal new weapons,” the statement read.
Ekkehard Brose, head of the German Army’s Federal Security Policy Academy, said it was crucial to tie the United States to the decision, to avoid Europe facing a single Russia with of nuclear weapons.
But he also noted the decision’s deeper historical significance.
“German-made tanks will again face Russian tanks in Ukraine,” he said, adding that it was “not an easy thought” for Germany, which takes its responsibility for the horrors of the Second World War.
“And yet, it’s the right decision,” Brose said, saying it was up to Western democracies to help Ukraine stop Russia’s military campaign.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has warned that it will take about three months for the first tanks to be deployed in Ukraine. He described the Leopard 2 as “the best battle tank in the world”.
“It’s a big game-changer, maybe also for this war, at least in the current phase,” he said.
The German government has said that it plans to quickly start training Ukrainian tank crews in Germany. The package being put together would also include logistics, ammunition and maintenance.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described German and American intentions with the tanks as “a rather disastrous plan”.
“I’m sure many scholars understand the absurdity of this idea,” Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
“Just because of the technological aspects, it’s a rather disastrous plan. The bottom line is that it’s a quite obvious overstatement of the potential (the supply of tanks) would add to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. is yet another mistake, quite profound,” the Kremlin official said.
Peskov predicted that “these tanks will burn like all the others. … Except that they are very expensive and that will fall on the shoulders of European taxpayers.” he added.
Scholz sought to reassure people in his country who were worried about the consequences of sending tanks to Ukraine.
“Trust me, trust the government,” he said. “By acting in a coordinated way internationally, we will ensure that this support is possible without the risks for our country developing in the wrong direction.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who previously questioned Germany’s commitment to help Ukraine, thanked Scholz following Wednesday’s announcement.
“The decision to send Leopards to Ukraine is a big step towards stopping Russia,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter. “Together we are stronger.”
Other European nations, such as Finland and Spain, on Wednesday signaled their willingness to part ways with their own Leopard or similar battle tanks as part of a larger coalition.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who had announced his intention to send 14 of his Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, hailed Germany’s decision to “further boost Ukraine’s defensive firepower”.
“Together we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures lasting peace,” Sunak said on Twitter.
Still, it is unclear whether Ukraine will receive the roughly 300 tanks that analysts say are needed to prevent Russia from advancing in the provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia and to launch a counter-offensive in the southeast of the country.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said on Telegram after Germany’s announcement that “many leopards are needed”.