Biden said that the United States will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine

Washington — The US plans to send 31 of the highest M-1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, fulfilling a key request from Kiev that will give a serious boost to Ukrainian firepower in the coming months.

Senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday, confirmed plans to send 31 tanks, the equivalent of a Ukrainian tank battalion. The move follows Germany’s statement quickly provide 14 own Leopard tanks to Ukraine and allow Western partners to re-export theirs.

The delivery of the Abrams tanks will take several months, given the time needed to purchase them and train the Ukrainian military to use them.

During a conversation with journalists, officials said that the decision to provide tanks was made after “continuing diplomatic negotiations” with European allies and partners and is “a continuation of our efforts to provide Ukraine with the capabilities necessary for further better defense.” himself”.

President Biden is going to make remarks about US support for Ukraine on Wednesday afternoon. He spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Britain on Wednesday morning before his speech, the White House said.

The M-1 Abrams is the main tank system of the US Armed Forces and one of the most advanced in the world. Ukrainian officials have asked their Western allies to provide them with tanks to bolster a spring counteroffensive aimed at retaking areas held by entrenched Russian troops.

FILE PHOTO: NATO Forward Presence Battlegroup Crystal Arrow 2021 military exercise in Adaža
A US Army M-1 Abrams tank fires during NATO exercises in Latvia on March 26, 2021.

INTS KALNINS / REUTERS


One senior official called the Abrams tanks “the best in the world” and “a huge new capability that Ukraine will have to strengthen its long-term defense.”

U.S. officials have resisted arming the Ukrainians with Abrams tanks for weeks, arguing that diesel-powered Leopard tanks, rather than Abrams jet fuel, would better meet the Ukrainians’ immediate needs on the battlefield. But pressure on the part of other allies — in particular, Poland, the Baltic countries and the Ukrainians themselves — to provide Kiev with advanced tank systems grew within several weeks.

One American official said the tanks would help Ukraine defend itself against an expected Russian offensive in the spring and help Ukrainian troops regain territory.

“We want to be sure that they have the proper capabilities not only to defend themselves against a Russian attack — and we expect that Mr. Putin and the Russian military will try to go on the offensive here in the coming weeks and months as the weather improves, but also that , that they have an opportunity to regain their sovereign territory, including Crimea, the official said.

The announcement of the American tanks took place on the birthday of the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky. He told a German television network on Tuesday that the tanks of the Western allies would provide a much-needed morale boost to his soldiers on the front lines.

“They do only one very important thing – they motivate our soldiers to fight for their own values, because they show that the whole world is with you,” said Zelensky.

The tanks will not come directly from the American arsenal. Instead, the administration will purchase the systems with funds from its Ukraine Security Initiative. This decision, combined with the extensive training required to operate the tanks, means it will take some time before the vehicles end up in Ukrainian hands.

“We’re talking months, not weeks,” said one senior administration official.

“[The Pentagon] is currently working on fuel and equipment delivery mechanisms that Ukraine will need for the operation and maintenance of the Abrams, another official added. “We do expect that other countries will announce the provision of additional armored assets, including those that will be available for use on the battlefield in the coming weeks and months.”

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