The United States plans to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing course on a major step in aiding Kyiv retake territory from Russia.
President Joe Biden is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday, but multiple outlets reported the change in plan the night before, citing anonymous officials. Washington could send as many as 30 tanks to Ukraine, according to The New York Times.
The early reports of the U.S. agreeing to send Abrams tanks likely helped convince Germany to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. The German government confirmed Wednesday that it would send 14 Leopard tanks to Kyiv. Berlin had been holding out on sending battle tanks until Washington agreed to do the same, as Russia has repeatedly warned that providing tanks to Ukraine would be seen as a major provocation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed Germany’s decision, saying it would provide a “green light for partners to supply similar weapons.” Other Western nations such as Poland have been waiting for Germany’s go-ahead before providing Leopards to Ukraine.
The U.S. had previously resisted sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine, citing difficulties with maintenance and training. Just last week, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told journalists that Pentagon officials were worried about giving Kyiv a piece of equipment that its soldiers “can’t repair, they can’t sustain and that they over the long term can’t afford.”
Ukraine has repeatedly asked for battle tanks, which both its leaders and international defense analysts believe could help turn the tides of the now nearly yearlong war.
Al Jazeera defense analyst Alex Gatopoulos noted that modern Western tanks have been designed with the specific goal of defeating Russian-made ones. He also pointed out that southern Ukraine is flat, making the terrain ideal for using tanks as “armoured fists that can punch through defensive lines.”
The decision to send Abrams tanks also comes as opinions in Washington begin to split over Ukraine. Republicans, particularly in the House of Representatives, are losing their taste for providing so much aid to Kyiv. Meanwhile, Democrats have been pushing Biden to officially designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, something he has been adamant he will not do.
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