The Biden administration approved a delivery of 31 M1 Abrams main battle tanks for Ukraine Wednesday, but the tanks are not likely to arrive for months, according to senior administration officials.
The delivery represents a long term commitment to Ukraine’s defense and will support Germany’s announcement from earlier on Wednesday to deliver along with partners two battalions’ worth of German made tanks, a senior administration official said on a conference call. Abrams tanks will provide Ukraine with a critical capability to defend and take backUkrainian territory from Russia, multiple officials said, and follows Kyiv’s demands for heavy armor.
“We see multiple countries across the broad coalition we built stepping up to send a strong message of support to our long term commitment to Ukraine,” a second official said.
Senior U.S. leaders have engaged in repeated conversations with Germany and other European partners in recent weeks, including at the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group summit at Ramstein air base in Germany last week, culminating in what the second official characterized as a show of unity and long-term support for Ukraine. President Joe Biden held multiple phone calls with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in January to coordinate security assistance, the official said.
Biden is set to make remarks at noon Wednesday regarding the continued U.S. support for Ukraine, The Hill reported.
The U.S. plans to obtain the 31 new tanks accompanied by eight M88 recovery vehicles through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, straight from the production line, a third senior administration official said. That’s opposed to drawing directly from existing U.S. stocks or sourcing Abrams from the hundreds operated by U.S. partners.
The Department of Defense (DOD) previously opposed supplying the Abrams tanks to Ukraine — they require extensive maintenance, establishing new sustainment supply lines, and potentially months of training on complex systems, and their gas turbine engines run on jet fuel, which is difficult to source at times, according to The Washington Post.
The tanks are “complex systems that require a significant amount of training and maintenance,” the third official said. To that end, the U.S. has already begun planning to train Ukrainian troops in the short term at an unspecified location outside of Ukraine.
Abrams training will incorporate complex maneuvers designed to help Ukraine combine different capabilities “in a unified way that will enable them to to retain territory,” an official said.
The number of tanks being provided is the equivalent of one Ukrainian tank battalion, according to the senior official. Ukraine will be receiving “hundreds” of tanks and other armored vehicles in the future.
Officials did not confirm the precise circumstances sparking a change in policy, but an official said the Abrams delivery is in keeping with the U.S. strategy of evolving security assistance for Ukraine based on Kyiv’s reported needs.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry and ministry of defense did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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