US and Germany to send M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in major sign of support for Kyiv


The leaders of the United States and Germany announced on Wednesday that they would send contingents of tanks to Ukraine, reversing a long-standing fear of providing Kyiv with armored assault vehicles and unleashing powerful new tools in Ukraine’s efforts to retake territory seized from Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s announcement that he would send Leopard 2 tanks was coupled with US President Joe Biden’s announcement that he was providing 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing the administration’s long-standing resistance to Kyiv’s demands for highly complex but support – heavy goods vehicles.

The twin statements made for a remarkable moment that followed weeks of intense pressure on Berlin from some of its NATO allies. The decisions were the result of prolonged diplomacy between Germany, the United States and other European allies and come as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares for a new Russian offensive this spring.

Speaking from the White House, Biden said the tanks would “increase Ukraine’s capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives” in both the short and long term.

And while he touted the tanks’ ability to help Ukraine “counter Russia’s evolving tactics and strategies on the battlefield,” Biden insisted they should not be viewed by Moscow as an “offensive threat.”

“This is not an offensive threat to Russia. There is no offensive threat to Russia if Russian troops return to Russia where they belong,” he said.

Scholz earlier told lawmakers in the German parliament that the decision to send Leopard 2 tanks came after consultations with Western allies.

“It is correct that we have progressed little by little. It is the only principle that can work in such dangerous conditions,” he said.

The dispute over whether the Germans would send Leopards to support Ukraine threatened to show some of the first cracks in the united Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Scholz and Biden’s announcement shows that the US and its allies are still working in sync when it comes to supporting President Volodymyr Zelensky and his nation’s fight against the Russians.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Kate Baldwin on “This Hour” that the German and U.S. decisions were “important messages” and that he “welcomes U.S. leadership” in making them happen.

“This will greatly enhance their combat capabilities,” Stoltenberg said of the effect the tanks will have on Ukraine’s military.

The US decision to provide Abrams tanks to Ukraine represents a sharp departure from its previously stated position. Although the Biden administration has never ruled the possibility of supplying American tanks entirely off the table, American officials said publicly last week that now is not the right time to send the 70-ton M-1 Abrams tanks because they are expensive and require significant amount of on-the-job training.

Instead, the tanks were repeatedly floated as a long-term option — even as critics said the timing was right as Ukraine prepared for the possibility that Russia would mobilize more troops and launch a new offensive. Zelensky has been constantly asking Western allies for modern tanks as his country prepares for an expected major Russian counteroffensive in the spring.

Yet after intense diplomacy with Germany, which made it clear it would send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine only if the United States offered the Abrams, Biden gave the go-ahead for the vehicles. The 31 Abrams will form a full Ukrainian tank battalion.

“Abrams tanks are the best in the world. This is a huge new capability that Ukraine will get to strengthen its long-term defense,” said a senior administration official, noting that the tanks will be purchased through funding from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

Biden spoke by phone Wednesday with Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss continued military support for Ukraine. US officials said maintaining unity among the Western alliance was a critical consideration as Biden and his team appeared at the deployment of the Abrams tanks.

The Abrams tanks will take months to arrive, senior administration officials said, and will require extensive training for Ukrainian troops in how to operate and operate them. The US must navigate complex supply chains for the components needed for the tanks.

The procurement process will take months, officials said, although the German Leopards will arrive in the near future. Meanwhile, the US will begin a “comprehensive training program” for the Ukrainians on the Abrams, which will require significant maintenance once deployed. The training will take place outside of Ukraine.

The U.S. is also supplying eight M88 recovery vehicles, the second official said, which will help “keep the Abrams tanks operational.”

Speaking before the president’s announcement, senior U.S. officials framed the decision as an investment in Ukraine’s “longer-term capabilities,” an indication that the administration sees the now-11-month-old war stretching into the future. Ukraine hopes the new tanks can help it regain territory seized by Russia, including in the Donbass. This could also include Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

“We’ve been talking about tanks internally, and we’ve certainly been talking about tanks externally, with allies and partners, for quite some time, given what we expect to be the types of battles that are going to happen in the coming weeks and months,” an official said.

Still, officials acknowledge that the challenges of getting Ukraine the Abrams tanks are still steep.

“There are technical aspects to the Abrams that make it a bit more challenging than some systems we’ve provided to Ukraine in the past,” a senior official said. “It’s the most powerful tank in the world, but it’s also advanced.”

The months needed to buy, build and ship the tanks will give Ukrainian fighters time to learn how to use and maintain them, the official said.

The Germans’ aim is to assemble two tank battalions of Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine, the government statement said. As a first step, Berlin will provide a company of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from the Bundeswehr’s stockpile, with training of Ukrainian crews starting quickly in Germany. In addition to training, the package will also include logistics, ammunition and systems support.

The German defense minister said Leopard tanks could be in service in Ukraine in about three months. Boris Pistorius, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said training would come first and then the tanks would be sent east.

The German army has 320 Leopard 2 tanks, but has not disclosed how many of them will be combat-ready, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman previously told CNN.

Germany will also allow other countries to export the battle tank, she said. On Tuesday, Poland formally requested approval from Germany to transfer some of its German Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Several European countries also own some Leopards, and Poland led the effort to re-export those to Ukraine, even if Germany wasn’t on board.

Addressing the German parliament after the announcement, Scholz said he had spoken with Zelensky before coming to parliament.

During his speech, the German leader said that Germany, along with the United States and the United Kingdom, had sent the most weapons systems to Ukraine and insisted that his country would be at the forefront of support for Ukraine.

The deployment of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine will provide Kyiv’s forces with a modern and powerful military machine ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive. It will also come as a blow to the Kremlin, which has seen a growing campaign to equip Ukrainian troops with high-tech combat systems as Russia’s ground war approaches one year.

Germany initially resisted mounting Western pressure to send some of the tanks to Ukraine, with new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius repeatedly calling for more time and insisting the move would come with pros and cons for Berlin.

The United Kingdom set a precedent for providing Ukraine with main battle tanks last week after pledging to send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks to the British Army to Kyiv. The deal crossed what previously seemed like a red line for the US and its European allies.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly pleaded with their Western allies to provide modern battle tanks – to be used not only to defend their current positions but also to take on the enemy in the coming months. Ukrainians fear that a second Russian offensive could begin within two months.

Although Ukraine has stockpiles of Soviet-era tanks, modern Western tanks provide a higher level of speed and agility. In particular, the Leopard’s relatively low maintenance requirements compared to other models lead experts to believe that the tanks can quickly help Ukraine on the battlefield.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed Germany’s move as “the right decision” after Wednesday’s announcement.

“The right decision by NATO allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Together with the Challenger 2, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower. Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure that Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace,” Sunak wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s chief of staff welcomed the news and reiterated that the country needs “a lot” of Leopard tanks. Writing on Telegram, Andriy Yermak said: “The first tank step has been taken. Next is the “tank coalition”. We need a lot of leopards.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki praised German Chancellor Scholz for his decision. “Thank you Olaf Scholz. The decision to send Leopards to Ukraine is a big step towards stopping Russia. We are stronger together,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

This story has been updated with additional developments.


Also Read :  European markets slip, China eases pandemic measures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button