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Monday, February 6, 2023

Abrams tanks are on the verge of being approved for export to Ukraine by the United States

The Biden administration is on the verge of approving the shipment of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, according to U.S. sources on Tuesday, as international reluctance to deploy tanks to the battlefront against the Russians continues to crumble. A decision to supply little more than 30 tanks might be made as early as Wednesday, although delivery could take many months.

U.S. authorities have said that specifics are still being determined. One official said that the tanks will be acquired under the forthcoming Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which offers long-term finance for the purchase of weaponry and equipment from commercial suppliers.

According to one official, the U.S. statement is scheduled to coincide with an announcement by Germany that it would authorize Poland’s request to deploy Leopard 2 tanks manufactured in Germany to Ukraine. Since the judgment has not yet been made public, the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.

By committing to provide the Abrams at an as-yet-unspecified period under the aid program, the administration may satisfy German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s desire for a U.S. commitment without sending the tanks immediately.

Much of the help provided to Ukraine so far in the 11-month-old conflict has been via a separate operation using Pentagon inventories to expedite the delivery of weaponry. Even under this approach, however, it would take months to transport tanks to Ukraine and train Ukrainian soldiers on their use. Tuesday, it remained unclear when the United States would begin training Ukrainian soldiers on the Abrams and approximately when they can reach the front lines.

To yet, the United States has resisted giving Ukraine its own M1 Abrams tanks, citing the high-tech vehicles’ expensive and complicated maintenance and logistical requirements. Washington feels it would be more productive to supply German Leopards, given several allies already own them and Ukrainian personnel would need less training on the more complex Abrams.

Just last week, Defense Policy Undersecretary Colin Kahl told reporters that the Abrams is a sophisticated, costly, difficult-to-maintain, and difficult-to-train piece of equipment. We shouldn’t provide the Ukrainians with the equipment they can’t fix, can’t maintain, and can’t finance in the long run, since this is counterproductive, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

A U.S. official involved with White House deliberations said that the administration’s initial reluctance was due to worries over the required training and the tanks’ upkeep. The insider noted that the government thinks such plans are in place, but their implementation may take time.

The administration’s turnaround comes only days after a coalition of more than 50 senior military officials from Europe and beyond gathered in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s combat requirements, with battle tanks as a major subject of discussion.

Ukrainian officials have made an urgent request for tanks, but Germany has resisted rising pressure to either provide its tanks or allow other nations, like Poland, to transfer German-built tanks from their stockpiles. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, said that the deployment of Western tanks would have “unambiguously bad implications.”

Friday’s session at Ramstein Air Base brought together defense officials from nations using Leopard 2 tanks and the Germans in an attempt to reach a compromise.

On Sunday, Berlin hinted that it would not interfere if other nations wanted to transfer Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv. Germany must consent to the transfer of tanks to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.

U.S. and German officials have conveyed inconsistent signals over whether U.S. and German choices are related and if Berlin was unwilling to supply tanks if the U.S. did not send Abrams.

On Tuesday, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Baszczak said that Poland has formally asked Germany for permission to deploy its Leopard 2 combat tanks to Ukraine.

German authorities acknowledged to the DPA news agency that they had received the application and said that it will be evaluated with “appropriate promptness.” Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, said on Sunday that Berlin will not attempt to prevent Poland from sending high-tech weaponry to Kyiv.

The German government refused to comment on allegations of a tank purchase. Der Spiegel claimed on Tuesday, without specifying a source, that Germany would transfer at least one company of Leopard 2 tanks from its stockpile to Ukraine. A company consists of fifteen tanks.

Scholz is scheduled to address the Bundestag on Wednesday and answer questions from legislators, many of whom have been pressuring the government to join its allies in delivering tanks to Ukraine.

Congress has also been pressuring the United States to increase its assistance to Ukraine.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that it is “far overdue” for the Biden administration and its allies to deliver further military assistance to Ukraine and that the United States must contribute additional tanks and munitions to help Ukraine “win this war.”

It is time for the Biden administration and our friends to get serious about assisting Ukraine to complete the job and recapture their nation.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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