The U.S. may eventually fulfill Ukraine’s wish for new tanks to help in its war against Russia, according to a senior Department of Defense (DoD) official.
The official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity during a Pentagon briefing on Monday, said that the option of supplying Ukraine with tanks remained “absolutely on the table.” Ukraine’s military has been relying on Soviet-era tanks throughout the war but is seeking more modern replacements.
“Tanks are absolutely on the table along with other areas,” the DoD official said. “We’re looking at the entirety of the Ukrainian armed forces and considering for the future … what capabilities they will need and how the U.S. and our allies will be able to support Ukraine in building out those capabilities.”
The official said that the U.S. was encouraging European countries with access to additional Soviet-type tanks to provide more units to Ukraine, which could provide the military with more immediate assistance, as no additional training would be required.
Modern tanks similar to those used by NATO countries could be supplied at a later date but would also require Ukraine to be provided with “substantial” new training to operate the tanks, the official said.
“The tanks that are available that could be provided very quickly with little to no training are Soviet-type tanks but we’re certainly open to other options provided that the training, maintenance and sustainment can be taken care of,” said the official. “There will be a day when they may want to transition and may need to transition to, you know, NATO compatible models.”
“We’re always very cognizant though with any new equipment that we provide to Ukraine or that our allies, our partners provide that there is substantial training, maintenance and sustainment … and sustainment consideration,” the DoD official added.
The U.S. has already committed to provide Ukraine with $15.8 billion in military aid since the war with Russia began on February 24. Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that a new $600 million package would be sent to Ukraine.
The new aid package includes items like ammunition and artillery rounds, vehicles to transport heavy equipment and drones. However, no tanks were included.
Ukrainian officials have been ramping up the pressure on Western countries to send new tanks as the war approaches the seven-month mark. No countries have offered to send the tanks.
Kyiv’s demands for Germany to provide it with Marder infantry vehicles and Leopard tanks were rejected last week, with German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht saying that the country would refuse to take action “unilaterally.”
“No country has delivered Western-built infantry fighting vehicles or main battle tanks so far,” Lambrecht told reporters in Berlin, according to Reuters. “We have agreed with our partners that Germany will not take such action unilaterally.”
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported the acquisition of at least one newer tank on Sunday, with the discovery of a Russian T-90M tank abandoned in “perfect condition” amid the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the eastern Kharkiv region.
Newsweek has reached out to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and the Russian government for comment.
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