U.S. poised to send tanks to Ukraine
Washington — The U.S. is now poised to send its top-of-the-line battle tank, the M1 Abrams, to Ukraine after insisting for months that the tanks were too complex to operate and maintain, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
However, officials said it would likely take months before Abrams tanks arrive in Ukraine. The U.S. is expected to send dozens of tanks, and Ukrainian crews must first be trained in both operations and maintenance. Once they’re operational, the tanks would give Ukraine major new capabilities to launch offensives against dug-in Russian troops.
The news of the expected U.S. announcement, which could come as early as this week, came before Germany said Wednesday it would send 14 Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, and approve re-export of the same kind of tanks from partner countries like Poland.
“This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability. We are acting in a closely coordinated and concerted manner internationally,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Berlin.
Ukraine has been asking for Abrams tanks from the U.S. for months, but the Pentagon remained reluctant as recently as last week.
“We’re not there yet,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said last Thursday when asked about fulfilling the request for the tanks.
“The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. It’s expensive. It’s hard to train on … It is not the easiest system to maintain,” Kahl told reporters the day before.
Last week in Germany, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said allies are focused on getting Ukraine what it needs before the spring.
“So we have a window of opportunity here, you know, between now and the spring, whenever they commence their operation, their counteroffensive, and that’s not a long time, and we have to pull together the right capabilities,” Austin said.
In recent weeks, defense officials have emphasized the Abrams tank is not what Ukraine needs right now because of the significant maintenance it requires and the fact that it runs on jet fuel, not diesel like some other models of tanks. Despite its difficulty, the Abrams still would provide a significant capability for Ukraine to go on the offensive even if it’s in the medium to long term.
It’s unclear what prompted the U.S. to reverse its position on providing the Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
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The U.S. has committed to training 500 Ukrainians per month on combined arms maneuvers, or how to move in battalion-sized groups and coordinate operations between air and ground. That large-scale training is in addition to specific training on complex weapons systems the U.S. has recently committed, like Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and Patriot air defense systems.
The U.S. has committed more than $26.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration.