In a major sign of support for Kyiv, Germany and the US announced plans to send tanks to Ukraine


U.S. and German leaders each announced on Wednesday that they would send tank contingents to Ukraine, reversing their long-held fears about supplying Kyiv with offensive armored vehicles and unleashing powerful new tools to aid Ukraine’s efforts to retake territory occupied by Russia .

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz announced he would send Leopard 2 tanks, while U.S. President Joe Biden announced he would supply Ukraine with 31 M1 Abrams tanks, reversing the government’s long-held highs for Kyiv Resistant to complex but maintenance-intensive requirements – heavy vehicles.

The two announcements came as a landmark moment after weeks of intense pressure on Berlin from some NATO allies. The decisions are the result of long-term diplomacy between Germany, the United States and other European allies, and come as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares for a new Russian offensive this spring.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said the tanks would “enhance Ukraine’s ability to defend its territory and achieve its strategic goals” in the near and long term.

While he touted the tanks’ ability to help Ukraine “counter Russia’s changing tactics and strategy on the battlefield,” Biden insisted Moscow should not view them as an “offensive threat.”

“This is not an offensive threat to Russia. If Russian troops return to Russia where they belong, there is no offensive threat to Russia,” he said.

Earlier, Scholz told lawmakers in the German parliament that the decision to send the Leopard 2 tanks was made after consultations with Western allies.

“We are right to move forward bit by bit. It is the only principle that can work in such dangerous conditions,” he said.

The debate over whether the Germans will send Leopard fighter jets to support Ukraine may show some initial cracks in the West’s combined response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Schultz and Biden’s statements suggest the United States and its allies are still in lockstep in supporting President Zelensky and his country’s struggle against Russia.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Kate Boldouin on “Here and Now” that the German and U.S. decision was an “important announcement” and that he “welcomes the U.S. leadership” to make these things happen.

“It will significantly increase their combat capabilities,” Stoltenberg said of the impact the tanks will have on the Ukrainian military.

The U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with Abrams tanks represents an abrupt shift from its earlier stated position. While the Biden administration has never completely off the table the possibility of sending American tanks, U.S. officials said publicly last week that now is not the right time to send the 70-ton M-1 Abrams tanks because they Costly and operationally intensive training volume.

Instead, tanks have been repeatedly presented as a long-term option — though critics say the time is now, as Ukraine prepares for the possibility that Russia might mobilize more troops and launch a new offensive. Zelensky has been demanding modern tanks from Western allies as his country prepares for an expected spring Russian counteroffensive.

However, after intensive diplomacy with Germany, where Biden has made it clear that the Leopard 2 tanks will be sent to Ukraine only if the US supplies the Abrams tanks, Biden has agreed to send these vehicles. Thirty-one Abrams tanks will form a full Ukrainian tank battalion.

“The Abrams tanks are the best in the world. This is a huge new capability that Ukraine will get to enhance its long-term defense,” a senior administration official said, noting that the tanks would pass through Ukraine safely. Procurement of funds for aid programs.

Biden spoke by phone on Wednesday with Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss continuing military support for Ukraine. U.S. officials said maintaining the unity of the Western alliance was a key consideration as Biden and his team backed down on sending Abrams tanks.

The Abrams tanks will take months to arrive and will require extensive training for Ukrainian troops on operations and maintenance, senior administration officials said. The U.S. must navigate complex supply chains for the parts needed for the tanks.

The procurement process will take months, officials said, but the German Leopards are due to arrive in the near future. Meanwhile, the U.S. will begin an “integrated training program” for the Ukrainians on the Abrams, which will require extensive maintenance once deployed. Training will take place outside Ukraine.

The U.S. has also acquired eight M88 recovery vehicles, which will help “keep the Abrams tanks running,” the second official said.

Ahead of the president’s announcement, senior U.S. officials described the decision as an investment in Ukraine’s “long-term capabilities,” suggesting the administration believes the current 11-month war will stretch into the future. Ukraine hopes the new tanks will help it retake territories occupied by Russia, including in the Donbass. This could also include Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

“We’ve been discussing tanks internally and we’ve certainly been discussing tanks externally with our allies and partners for some time now, given the types of fighting we expect to take place in the weeks and months ahead,” one official said .

However, officials acknowledged that supplying Ukraine with the Abrams tanks remains a challenge.

“The Abrams missile has some technical issues that make it more challenging than some of the systems we’ve supplied to Ukraine in the past,” a senior official said. “It’s the most powerful tank in the world, but it It’s also very advanced.”

The months required to procure, build and ship the tanks will give Ukrainian fighters time to learn how to use and maintain them, the official said.

The Germans aimed to form two tank battalions for Ukraine equipped with Leopard 2 tanks, the government statement said. As a first step, Berlin will provide a company of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from the Bundeswehr stockpile, and training of Ukrainian crews will begin quickly in Germany. In addition to training, the service package will also include logistics, ammunition and system maintenance.

The German defense minister said the Leopard tank could be operational in Ukraine in about three months. Boris Pistorius told reporters on Wednesday that the training would take place first and then the tanks would be sent east.

A spokesman for the German Ministry of Defense previously told CNN that the German army has 320 Leopard 2 tanks, but did not say how many were on standby at any time.

Germany will also allow other countries to export main battle tanks, it said. Poland on Tuesday formally requested German approval to transfer some of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Several European countries also own some leopards, and even though Germany is not on board, Poland has led the way in re-exporting these leopards to Ukraine.

Speaking in the German parliament after the news was announced, Scholz said he had spoken to Zelenskiy before coming to parliament.

In his speech, the German leader said Germany joined the United States and Britain in sending the largest number of weapons systems to Ukraine and insisted that Germany would be at the forefront of support for Ukraine.

Sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine will provide Kyiv’s forces with modern and powerful military vehicles for a possible Russian spring offensive. It would also be a blow to the Kremlin, which has increasingly been equipping Ukrainian forces with high-tech combat systems as Russia’s ground war nears the one-year mark.

Germany initially resisted growing Western pressure to send some of the tanks to Ukraine, and its new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, has repeatedly called for more time, insisting that the move would have both advantages and disadvantages for Berlin.

Last week, the UK pledged to send 14 British Army Challenger 2 tanks to Kiev, setting a precedent for supplying Ukraine with main battle tanks. The agreement crossed what the United States and its European allies had previously seen as a red line.

Ukrainian officials have been pleading with their Western allies to provide modern main battle tanks – not only to defend their current positions, but also to fight the enemy in the coming months. Ukrainians worry that Russia could launch a second offensive in two months.

While Ukraine has an inventory of Soviet-era tanks, modern Western tanks offer a higher level of speed and agility. In particular, the relatively low maintenance requirements of the Panther tanks compared to other models lead experts to believe that these tanks could quickly help Ukraine on the battlefield.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed Germany’s move as “the right decision” following Wednesday’s announcement.

“The right decision by NATO allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Together with Challenger 2, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower. We are working together to ensure that Ukraine wins this war and ensures lasting peace,” Sunak said in a statement. tweeted.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff welcomed the news and reiterated the country’s need for “substantial” Leopard tanks. Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram: “The first step of the tank has been taken. Next is the “Tank League”. We need a lot of leopards.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki praised German Chancellor Schulz’s decision. “Thank you Olaf Schulz. The decision to send Leopards to Ukraine was a big step to stop Russia. Together we are stronger,” Morawiecki tweeted.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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