The United States said on Wednesday it would supply Ukraine with 31 of its most advanced battle tanks, after Germany broke a taboo with a similar announcement, in a possible turning point in its fight to repel Russia’s invasion. As appreciated the moves made by Kyiv.
The US decision to deliver the M1 Abrams tank helped break a diplomatic impasse with Germany over how best to help Kyiv in its war with Russia, which hours earlier had offered the Leopard 2 tanks as a dangerous provocation. Berlin’s decision was condemned.
Washington was wary of the idea of deploying the harder-to-maintain Abrams, but had to change tactics to persuade Germany to send its more easily operated Leopard 2 tanks – the workhorse of NATO forces across Europe – to Ukraine .
President Joe Biden announced the US decision in remarks at the White House, saying the tanks were needed to help the Ukrainians “improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain”.
A Biden administration official said more announcements are expected from US allies on additional armored vehicle capability for Ukraine.
Kyiv has been demanding for months for western main battle tanks that would give its army greater firepower, protection and mobility to break through long-stagnant front lines and recapture territory held in the east and south.
Senior Biden administration officials said it would take months to deliver the Abrams and described the move as providing long-term defense of Ukraine.
“There is no aggressive threat to Russia (itself),” Biden said. Moscow increasingly casts the war as a dangerous face-off between Russia and the US-led NATO alliance.
‘The Road to Victory’
The White House said Biden on Wednesday spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Ministers Giorgia Meloni and Britain’s Rishi Sunak about their countries’ close cooperation in support of Kyiv.
Germany, previously held by the West amid a deep reluctance to export offensive weapons given the Nazi past, said it would send an initial company of 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks from its own stock and to finance shipments by allied European states. will also approve.
The ultimate objective would be to supply Ukraine with two battalions of Leopards, typically each consisting of three or four companies, the first to arrive within three or four months.
Scholz told the German parliament to thunderous applause, “Germany will always be at the forefront when it comes to supporting Ukraine.”
Biden thanked Germany for its decision. “Germany has really moved on,” he said.
Scholz later stated that Germany would send further military aid to Kyiv beyond the delivery of the Leopard, including for example air defence, heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Washington’s decision on the Abrams tanks as “an important step on the road to victory”. He also told Scholz on the phone that he was “sincerely grateful to the Chancellor and to all our friends in Germany”.
“The main thing is that this is only the beginning. We need hundreds of tanks,” Andrey Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said in a post on Telegram.
The moves by Germany and the US arguably ended one of the last taboos in Western support for Ukraine against Russia’s nearly year-old invasion: providing weapons that are primarily of an offensive rather than a defensive purpose.
The West has been reluctant to send heavy offensive weapons to Kyiv for fear of provoking nuclear power Russia.
Russia reacted with fury to Germany’s decision, saying that Berlin was abdicating “its historical responsibility to Russia” stemming from Nazi crimes in World War Two when Hitler’s forces invaded the Soviet Union.
“This extremely dangerous decision takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation,” said Sergei Nechayev, Moscow’s ambassador to Germany.
Pledges to Ukraine from other countries keeping the leopards, which Germany makes in the thousands and exports to allies in Nato, came thick and fast this week as Germany and the United States appeared to iron out differences over their approach.
Finland and Norway said they would send Leopards, as did Poland, which has already sought Berlin’s approval.
Spain and the Netherlands said they were considering it and it was reported that Norway was discussing it. Britain has offered a company of 14 of its comparable Challenger tanks and France is considering sending its Leclercs.
Moscow says the supply of modern offensive weapons to Ukraine will only postpone what it says will be its inevitable victory. Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said the delivery of the American tanks would be “another blatant provocation”.
Clearance from Soledar
Since Ukraine annexed some territory in the summer and autumn of 2022, the war has become a bloody, stalemate slog and Kyiv believes Western heavy weapons can restore its momentum.
Kyiv acknowledged on Wednesday that its forces had withdrawn from Soledar, a small salt-mining town in the east that Russia claimed to have captured more than a week ago, its biggest move in more than half a year. There was profit.
The town is close to Bakhmut, a large town that has been the center of an intense Russian offensive for weeks.
The Russian-installed governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk region said units of Russia’s Wagner contract militia are now advancing inside Bakhmut, fighting on the outskirts and in areas recently occupied by Ukraine.
Reuters could not confirm the situation there.
In the 11 months since the invasion, Russia has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions from their homes and reduced entire cities to rubble.
It says its “special military operation” was necessary to address the security threat posed by Ukraine’s ties with the West, which it now characterizes as trying to destroy it. Kyiv and its allies say Ukraine has never threatened Russia and the invasion is a war of aggression to subdue a neighbor and seize land.