The US and Germany are sending M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks into Ukraine in a key signal of support for Kyiv


US leaders and Germany Each announced on Wednesday that they would send batches of tanks to Ukraine, reflecting their longstanding fear of providing Kyiv with offensive armored vehicles and unlocking powerful new tools in Ukraine’s efforts to recapture territory captured by Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s announcement that he would send Leopard 2 tanks was coupled with an announcement by US President Joe Biden that he was providing 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reflecting the administration’s long resistance to requests from Kyiv for highly sophisticated but maintenance-heavy vehicles.

The double announcements made for a landmark moment that followed weeks later The pressure is intense in Berlin from some of its NATO allies. The decisions are the result of protracted diplomacy between Germany, the United States and other European allies, and come as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares for a new Russian offensive this spring.

Speaking from the White House, Biden said the tanks will “enhance Ukraine’s ability to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives” in the near and long term.

While touting the ability of tanks to help Ukraine “counter evolving Russian tactics and strategies on the battlefield,” Biden insisted that Moscow should not view them as an “offensive threat.”

This is not an offensive threat to Russia. “There is no offensive threat to Russia if Russian forces return to Russia where they belong,” he said.

Earlier, Schultz informed the deputies in the German parliament that the decision to send Leopard 2 tanks came after consultations with the Western allies.

“It is right that we have advanced little by little. This is the only principle that can work in such dangerous conditions.

The dispute over whether the Germans would send the Panthers to support Ukraine threatens to show some of the first cracks in the united Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the Shultz-Biden announcement shows that the United States and its allies are still working apace when it comes to supporting President Volodymyr Zelensky and his country’s war against the Russians.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Kate Baldwin on “In This Hour” that the German and US decisions were “important announcements” and that he “welcomes US leadership” in achieving them.

“It will greatly enhance their combat capabilities,” Stoltenberg said of the effect of tanks on the Ukrainian army.

The US decision to supply Abrams tanks to Ukraine marks an abrupt shift from its previously announced position. While the Biden administration has never taken the possibility of shipping U.S. tanks completely off the table, U.S. officials said publicly last week that it was not the right time to send the 70-ton M-1 Abrams tanks because they are expensive and require a large amount of tanks. The amount of training to work.

Instead, tanks have been repeatedly floated as a long-term option — even as critics said it was the right time, as Ukraine braced for the prospect of Russia massing more forces and launching a new offensive. Zelensky has been continually asking the Western Allies for modern tanks as his country prepares for a major Russian counteroffensive expected in the spring.

However, after an intense diplomatic bout with Germany, which made it clear it would only send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if the US offered Abrams missiles, Biden gave the nod to sending the vehicles. 31 Abrams would make up an entire Ukrainian tank battalion.

Abrams tanks are the best in the world. “This is a massive new capability that Ukraine will have to bolster its long-term defenses,” said a senior administration official, noting that the tanks would be purchased through funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

Biden spoke by phone on Wednesday with Schultz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss continued military support to Ukraine. American officials said that maintaining unity among the Western coalition was a critical consideration as Biden and his team came to field the Abrams tanks.

Senior administration officials said the Abrams tanks would take months to arrive, and would require extensive training for Ukrainian forces on how to operate and service them. The United States must navigate complex supply chains for components required for tanks.

Officials said the procurement process will take months, though German Leopards are due to arrive in the near term. Meanwhile, the United States will begin an “extensive training program” for the Ukrainians aboard the Abrams, which will require significant maintenance once they are deployed. Training will take place outside Ukraine.

The second official said the US is also purchasing eight M88 rescue vehicles, which will help “keep the Abrams tanks up and running.”

Speaking before the president’s announcement, senior US officials framed the decision as an investment in Ukraine’s “long-term capabilities,” an indication that the administration sees the 11-month-old war spilling over into the future. Ukraine hopes that the new tanks will help restore the territories occupied by Russia, including the Donbass. This could also include Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

“We’ve been talking about tanks internally, and we’ve certainly been talking about tanks externally, with allies and partners, for some time, given what we expect the types of combat, that will happen in the coming weeks and months,” said an official.

However, officials acknowledged the challenges in supplying Ukraine with Abrams tanks are still steep.

“There are technical aspects to the Abrams aircraft that make it a little more challenging than some of the systems we have provided to Ukraine in the past,” said one of the senior officials. “It’s the most capable tank in the world, but it’s also cutting edge.”

The official said the months required to buy, build and ship the tanks would give the Ukrainian fighters time to learn how to use and maintain them.

The government statement said the Germans’ goal was to assemble two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine. In a first step, Berlin will supply a company of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from Bundeswehr stocks, training Ukrainian crews to start quickly in Germany. In addition to training, the package will also include logistics, ammunition and systems maintenance.

The German defense minister said that the Leopard tanks could be ready for use in Ukraine within three months. “The training will come first, and then the tanks will be sent east,” Boris Pistorius told reporters on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense told CNN earlier that the German Army has 320 Leopard 2 tanks but did not disclose how many tanks would be ready for battle.

She added that Germany would also allow other countries to export the battle tank. Poland on Tuesday Formal application for approval From Germany to transfer some German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Many European countries also own some Panthers, and Poland has led efforts to re-export them to Ukraine even if Germany isn’t on board.

Schultz told the German parliament after the announcement that he had spoken to Zelensky before coming to parliament.

During his speech, the German leader said that Germany, along with the United States and the United Kingdom, had sent most of the weapons systems to Ukraine and insisted that his country would be at the forefront of support for Ukraine.

Sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine will provide Kyiv forces with a modern and powerful military vehicle ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive. It would also be a blow to the Kremlin, which has seen a growing campaign to supply high-tech combat systems to Ukrainian forces as Russia’s ground war approaches a year.

Germany initially resisted an increasing drumbeat of Western pressure to ship some tanks to Ukraine, with new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius repeatedly calling for more time and insisting the move would come with pluses and minuses for Berlin.

The United Kingdom set a precedent for supplying main battle tanks to Ukraine last week by pledging to send Kyiv 14 of its British Army’s Challenger 2 tanks. The agreement crossed what had previously appeared to be a red line for the United States and its European allies.

Ukrainian officials have continually pleaded with their Western allies to provide modern battle tanks—to be used not only to defend their current positions but also to take the fight to the enemy in the coming months. The Ukrainians fear that a second Russian offensive could begin in two months.

Although Ukraine has stocks of Soviet-era tanks, modern Western tanks offer a higher level of speed and agility. In particular, the Leopard’s relatively low maintenance requirements compared to other models make experts believe that the tanks can quickly help Ukraine on the battlefield.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed Germany’s move as the “right decision” following Wednesday’s announcement.

“The right decision by NATO allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Together with the Challenger 2, it will boost Ukraine’s defensive firepower. Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace,” Sunak wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr ZelenskyThe Chief of Staff welcomed the news and reiterated that the country needed “a lot” of Leopard tanks. Andrei Yermak wrote in Telegram: “The first tank step has been taken. Next is the Tank Alliance. We need a lot of Panthers.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Moravski praised German Chancellor Schulz’s decision. “Thank you Olaf Schultz. The decision to send the Panthers to Ukraine is a huge step towards stopping Russia. Together we are stronger,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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