America and Germany are ready. to announce that they will supply Ukraine with their main battle tanks.Offering Kyiv a powerful new weapon to counter Russia and overcoming a rift that threatened to tear the alliance apart.
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The Biden administration is expected to offer the M1 Abrams tank to Ukraine as early as Wednesday, citing arguments that the vehicle guzzles too much gas and is difficult to operate, two people familiar with the matter said. Germany, which has insisted it does not want to be the only one to offer such tanks, will send 14 Leopard 2A6s, a person familiar with the decision said on condition of anonymity.
The move would give President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s forces access to a significant new capability as fighting in Ukraine shifts eastward from urban centers where Russian forces have been digging in since the February 24 offensive. Punch Russian lines and foil the spring offensive that officials fear Russia is planning.
Sending the tanks would also allow allies to move beyond divisions that have threatened to undermine their alliance, a centerpiece of NATO’s strategy as it seeks to isolate President Vladimir Putin. . Officials had hoped Germany would announce a decision on the Leopard at a meeting of allied defense ministers last week, but Chancellor Olaf Schulz declined to do so.
Schulz’s stance sparked growing frustration among U.S. officials who argued that the Abrams, which relies on a specialized fuel and is difficult to maintain, was less suitable for Ukraine than the Leopard 2, which Eastern European countries are easy to work in and have a lot of supply. . The Abrams weighs about 70 tons and may be too much for Ukraine’s bridges and roads.
Markus Faber, a lawmaker and defense expert for the Free Democrats in the Schools Coalition, said that after 11 months, training of Ukrainian personnel could finally begin. “Ukraine urgently needs tanks to persuade invading troops to go home.”
US and German administration officials declined to comment.
“If there are steps we can take to see that Ukraine gets the quantities or capabilities it needs, we’ve made that clear before,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing Tuesday. We are ready to do that.” The US will not go ahead with any announcement.
Officials from both sides said they are still discussing numbers and timing of any deliveries. Germany softened its stance last week by saying that Ukrainian troops would begin training for Cheetah 2. People familiar with the matter later said Germany would also allow other countries that have Cheetah 2 to supply Ukraine.
Ukraine has repeatedly called for heavy tanks, saying they would be crucial in helping turn the tide against Russian forces. But the allies were also wary of triggering a new round of tensions with Putin, amid fears he could use nuclear weapons in the conflict.
“Ukraine has never asked US troops to fight on our soil instead of us,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech to Congress in December. “I can assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can completely outmaneuver American tanks and planes by themselves.”
As recently as last weekend, senior U.S. officials insisted that sending the Abrams made no sense, calling it expensive and difficult to train. It also requires three gallons of jet fuel for every mile traveled.
But that claim ignores the tank’s power, according to Tom Spohr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general.
“These are the best tanks in the world, they have the best armor, they have the best digital fire control, and we should not underestimate the military importance,” Spohr said. The oft-cited concerns about training and logistics needs “were kind of dreamed up to give the US government some breathing space,” he said.
The Biden administration also came under pressure from members of Congress who argued that it should send Abrams. This coincides with a broader belief that Ukraine should get access not only to self-defense, but also to expel Russian forces from the territory they gained after launching the invasion.
“Our military has said a lot of training, a lot of fuel, but it’s still a powerful weapons platform that can be very important,” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters Tuesday. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell added his voice to the chorus, saying it was “the last time the Biden administration and our allies were serious about helping Ukraine finish the job and take back our country.”
Germany, wary of provoking Russia’s anger and extending the war beyond the Ukrainian border, has insisted that “we will never go it alone,” as Schulz told Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John McLethwaite last week. He said in an interview.
“If the U.S. decides to bring battle tanks to Ukraine, it will be easier for Germany,” Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said on Bloomberg TV. “You know our history, and we’re a bit more reluctant there for understandable reasons.”