WASHINGTON (AP) — In a reversal, the Biden administration is poised to authorize the sending of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, US officials said Tuesday, amid international reluctance to send tanks to the front lines against the Russians , begins to erode. The decision could be announced as early as Wednesday, although it could be months or years before the tanks are delivered.
US officials said details were still being worked out. An official said the tanks would be purchased as part of an upcoming Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package that will provide longer-term financing for the purchase of weapons and equipment from commercial suppliers.
According to an official, the US announcement is expected to be coordinated with an announcement by Germany that it will approve Poland’s request to transfer German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as the decision has not yet been made public.
With the promise to send the Abrams as part of the aid initiative at an unspecified date, the administration can meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s request for an American engagement without having to send the tanks immediately.
Much of the aid sent so far in the 11-month-old war has been channeled through a separate program that uses Pentagon stocks to get weapons to Ukraine more quickly. But even under this program, it would take months to bring tanks to Ukraine and train the Ukrainian armed forces to use them.
It is not known how many tanks will be admitted.
So far, the US has resisted providing Ukraine with its own M1 Abrams tanks, citing extensive and complex maintenance and logistical challenges for the high-tech vehicles. Washington believes it would be more productive to send German Leopards since many allies have them and Ukrainian troops would need less training than on the more difficult Abrams.
Just last week Colin Kahl, Secretary of Defense at the Department of Defense, told reporters that the Abrams is a complicated, expensive, difficult-to-maintain, and difficult-to-train machine. One thing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been very focused on, he said, “is that we shouldn’t be giving Ukrainians systems that they can’t fix, that they can’t maintain and that they can’t afford in the long run because it can’t.” is helpful.”
A US official familiar with the White House’s thinking said the administration’s initial hesitation stemmed from concerns about the training required and the preservation of the tanks. The official added that the administration believes such plans are in place now but may take time to implement.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said he had nothing to disclose on a US decision regarding Abrams tanks. But he said, “Every time we’ve provided Ukraine with some kind of system, we’ve provided the training and conservation capabilities with it.”
The government’s reversal comes just days after a coalition of more than 50 senior defense officials from Europe and beyond met in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s wartime needs, and main battle tanks were a key issue.
Ukrainian leaders urgently requested tanks, but Germany had resisted growing pressure to either supply its own tanks or give way to other countries, such as Poland, to send the German-made tanks from their own stocks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the use of Western tanks would have “clearly negative” consequences.
Defense leaders from countries that have Leopard 2 tanks met with the Germans during Friday’s conference at Ramstein Air Base to reach an agreement.
Berlin indicated on Sunday that it would not stand in the way if other countries wanted to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv. Germany must agree to the tanks being handed over to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
US and German officials have given mixed signals on whether US and German decisions are related and whether Berlin was reluctant to send its tanks unless the US sent Abrams.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on Tuesday that Poland had officially asked Germany for permission to transfer its Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.
German officials confirmed receipt of the application to the dpa news agency and said it was being reviewed “with due urgency”. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday that Berlin would not try to prevent Poland from delivering the high-tech armaments to Kyiv.
German officials declined to comment on reports of a tank trade. The weekly newspaper Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday, without citing a source, that Germany would provide Ukraine with at least one company of Leopard 2 tanks from its own army stocks. Scholz is set to address parliament on Wednesday, taking questions from lawmakers, many of whom have urged the government to join allies in delivering the tanks to Ukraine.
Lawmakers in Congress have also urged the US to increase its aid to Ukraine.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday “it’s high time” that the Biden administration and its allies send more military aid to Ukraine, and that the US needs to provide more tanks and weapons to Ukraine help “win this war”.
“It is high time the Biden administration and our allies helped Ukraine finish the job and take back their country.”
The likely plans to send the Abrams were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
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