The US and Germany will send tanks to support Ukraine

BERLIN (HPD) — Germany and the United States announced Wednesday that they will send sophisticated battle tanks to Ukraine, offering what one expert described as an “armored strike force” to help kyiv turn the battlefield in its favor at moments in which the Russian invasion enters its 12th month.

The announcement marks the first stage of a coordinated effort by the West to provide dozens of heavy weapons that Ukrainian military commanders say will enable counter-offensives, reduce casualties and help restore dwindling ammunition supplies.

The United States will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden has said, backing away from arguments he has made for months that the operation and maintenance of 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.

“This is the result of intensive consultation, once again, with our international allies and partners,” Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz said in a speech to German lawmakers. “It was the right thing to do and it’s important that we didn’t get carried away” into making the decision, he added.

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

Several European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s announcement means they can provide a part of their arsenals to Ukraine.

In a video address Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy celebrated the creation of what he described as a “coalition of tanks.”

“We must form a fist of tanks, a fist of freedom whose blows will not allow tyranny to rise again,” Zelenskyy said.

He noted that Ukraine will push for more weapons, including long-range missiles and aircraft.

“The terrorist state must lose. The right to life must be protected. And so it will be”, asserted the Ukrainian president.

Although it will be months before the tanks arrive, Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines said the decision comes at a crucial time.

“Tanks will help reduce casualties among our soldiers… get new results and win this war faster,” said Oleksander Syrotiuk, a company commander in the 17th Tank Brigade based in Bakhmut.

Ukrainian soldiers and experts pointed out that Ukraine’s forces are running out of spare parts to repair their old Soviet-era tanks and specific ammunition they need as they endure relentless Russian artillery attacks. Western tanks could help open a new pathway for ammunition to reach Ukraine.

With the prospect of a Russian offensive in the spring, the tanks will also allow Ukrainian forces to launch new offensives and reduce the number of casualties, three military commanders, two of them from the army’s tank division, told The Associated Press.

“Without the new tanks, we cannot win this war,” said Maksim Butolin, chief sergeant of the 54th Tank Brigade division. He spoke to the HPD by phone a few days ago near the Bakhmut front.

Ukrainian forces have had to reserve ammunition and deal with frequent failures and maintenance problems, Syrotiuk noted.

“The main problem we have with our tanks is that they are old,” he added.

Syrotiuk said he prefers the Leopard 2, which he believes is better suited to Ukrainian terrain, saying that modern tanks have more accurate systems, better armor and equipment that allows for night operations.

Gian Gentile, a US Army veteran and senior historian at the Rand Studies Center, said the M1 Abrams and Leopard tanks will give Ukraine “mechanized armored power.”

Abrams tanks can hit a moving target up to 2,000 meters (1.25 miles) away while moving across rough terrain, he explained.

Scholz spoke by phone Wednesday with Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni, the German Chancellery said in a statement. The five leaders agreed to maintain military support for Ukraine as part of close Euro-Atlantic coordination.

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.

Supporters of the Ukrainian cause have supplied tanks in the past, but these were Soviet-era models found in the arsenals of countries once under Moscow’s influence but now aligned with the West. Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials insisted that their forces need more modern tanks of Western design.

Russia’s ambassador to Germany, Sergey Nechayev, called Berlin’s decision “extremely dangerous,” saying it “brings the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts statements by German politicians about their reluctance to get involved.”

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Kullab reported in kyiv, Ukraine. Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Matthew Lee and Nathan Ellgren in Washington, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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