Despite concerns, US will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine

WASHINGTON (HPD) — The United States is sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden said Wednesday, backing away from arguments he made for months that operating and maintaining the tanks were too complicated for Ukrainian forces.

The decision came shortly after Germany agreed to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own arsenal. The German government had said it would not send the Leopards unless Washington made the Abrams available, as it did not want to anger Moscow without the United States similarly committing its own tanks.

Biden said that in total, the European allies agreed to send enough tanks to equip two Ukrainian battalions, or around 62 tanks.

“With spring approaching, the Ukrainian forces are working to defend the territory they control and preparing new counteroffensives,” Biden said when announcing the decision to send the tanks. “To liberate their land, they need to be able to counter Russia’s changing tactics and strategies on the battlefield in the short term.”

The $400 million package announced Wednesday also includes eight M88 recovery vehicles, which are tank-like traction units that can tow the Abrams in a jam.

In total, France, Britain, the United States, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will send hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles to reinforce Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and tries to break through Russian lines.

The US tanks will be procured through the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative, which means it will take time for Ukrainian forces to receive the tanks and deploy them to the battlefield. The Pentagon plans to soon begin training Ukrainian forces on the use of the system at a location outside of Ukraine.

The United States has thousands of Abrams in its arsenal. However, it does not have a “surplus,” said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. He said the Ukrainian armed forces will undergo full-scale training to learn how to operate, maintain and keep the Abrams in operation. It is a process that will take a few months.

Drawing on the initiative fund for assistance rather than dipping into its existing arsenal means Ukraine is unlikely to have the tanks before Russia launches an offensive in the spring, as it is expected to do.

Kirby declined to specify when the Abrams will be delivered, but said Ukrainian forces are expected to have access to the German-made Leopards sooner. The display also hints that the United States and allies remain steadfast in their support for Ukraine for a protracted war that shows no sign of drawing to a close.

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Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

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