US President Joe Biden’s administration is set to announce plans to send at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks. According to reports, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also decided to send at least 14 Leopard 2 tanks. He is scheduled to address Congress on Wednesday morning. Russia’s ambassador to the US said the news was “another blatant provocation”. A Kremlin spokesman also said the decision reported by Germany would “bring nothing good” and “a lasting mark” on relations with Russia.
Ukrainian officials say they are urgently in need of heavier weapons, and say sufficient battle tanks could help Kyiv’s forces seize back territory from the Russians. But until now, the US and Germany have resisted internal and external pressure to send their tanks to Ukraine. Washington has cited the extensive training and maintenance required for the high-tech Abrams. Germans have endured months of painful political debate amid concerns that sending tanks would escalate the conflict and make Nato a direct party to the war with Russia.
However the timing remains unclear, and it could take many months for the US combat vehicles to reach the battlefront. German officials had reportedly been insisting they would only agree to the transfer of Leopard 2s to Ukraine if the US also sent M1 Abrams. “If the Germans continue to say we will only send or release Leopards on the conditions that Americans send Abrams, we should send Abrams,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a Biden ally, told Politico on Tuesday. Britain has already said it will send Challenger Two tanks to Ukraine. Poland – one of 16 European and Nato countries that have German-made Leopard 2 tanks – has been pushing to send the vehicles to Ukraine, but under export, rules need Berlin’s permission.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin had given other countries the green light to train Ukrainians to use Leopard 2 tanks but had not promised to send their tanks. Ukraine’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak on Tuesday urged Western powers to deliver hundreds of tanks to Kyiv to form a “shattering fist” against Russia. Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador in Washington, wrote in Telegram:
“If the United States decides to supply tanks, then justifying such a step with arguments about ‘defensive weapons’ will definitely not work.