U.S. sending 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine in main enhance to firepower

Washington — President Biden introduced Wednesday that the U.S. will ship 31 top-of-the-line M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, delivering on a key request from Kyiv that may present a significant enhance to Ukrainian firepower over the approaching months.

“In the present day, I am asserting that the USA will likely be sending 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the equal of 1 Ukrainian battalion,” Mr. Biden mentioned on the White Home, flanked by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin. The safety package deal is price roughly $400 million, the Pentagon mentioned.

The transfer comes after Germany mentioned it might quickly provide 14 of its personal Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and permit Western companions to re-export their very own, a transfer that Mr. Biden praised. France, the U.Okay., Finland, the Netherlands and different nations are additionally sending key safety help, Mr. Biden famous, emphasizing that the USA’ transfer is a part of a concerted effort by Western allies. 

“In the present day’s announcement builds on the arduous work and dedication from nations all over the world, led by the USA of America, to assist Ukraine defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity,” Mr. Biden mentioned. “That is what that is about, serving to Ukraine shield and defend Ukrainian land. It isn’t an offensive risk to Russia. There isn’t any offensive risk to Russia. If Russian troops return to Russia … the place they belong, this struggle could be over in the present day.” 

The supply of the Abrams tanks will take a number of months, given the time wanted to acquire them and practice Ukrainian troops on their use. 

A U.S. Army M-1 Abrams tank fires during a NATO exercise in Latvia on March 26, 2021.
A U.S. Military M1 Abrams tank fires throughout a NATO train in Latvia on March 26, 2021. INTS KALNINS / REUTERS

On a name with reporters previewing the president’s announcement, senior administration officers mentioned the choice to offer the tanks is a “continuation of our effort to offer Ukraine with the capabilities that they should proceed to higher defend themselves.” Mr. Biden spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.Okay. Wednesday morning forward of his remarks.

The M1 Abrams is the U.S. navy’s important tank system and “essentially the most succesful tanks on the earth,” Mr. Biden mentioned. Ukrainian officers have been pleading with Western allies to offer them with tanks to bolster counter-offensives within the spring aimed toward retaking areas held by dug-in Russian troops. The U.S. and greater than 50 different nations dedicated to offering roughly 500 different armored automobiles throughout talks final week.

The Abrams tanks and different armored automobiles are key to serving to Ukraine combat the Russians on open terrain, like that discovered within the largely flat Donbas area, which has seen intense preventing between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists since 2014.

U.S. officers have for weeks resisted arming the Ukrainians with Abrams tanks, arguing the Leopard tanks, which run on diesel versus the jet gasoline wanted to energy the Abrams, are higher suited to satisfy the Ukrainians’ instant wants on the battlefield. However pressure from different allies — significantly Poland and the Baltic states — and the Ukrainians themselves to offer Kyiv with superior tank techniques had been rising for weeks.

One of many U.S. officers on the decision Wednesday mentioned the tanks will assist Ukraine defend itself towards anticipated Russian offensives within the spring and assist Ukrainian troops reclaim territory.

“We need to be sure that they’ve the best capabilities to not solely defend themselves towards the Russian onslaught — and we do count on that Mr. Putin and the Russian navy will attempt to go on the offense right here in coming weeks and months, because the climate will get higher — but in addition that they’ve the flexibility to retake, to reclaim their sovereign territory,” together with Crimea, the official mentioned.

The U.S. announcement occurred to fall on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s birthday. He instructed a German TV community on Tuesday that the tanks from Western allies will present a much-needed morale enhance to his troopers on the entrance traces.

“They do just one crucial factor — they inspire our troopers to combat for their very own values, as a result of they present that the entire world is with you,” Zelenskyy mentioned.

The tanks won’t come straight from the U.S. arsenal. The administration will as an alternative procure the techniques utilizing funds from its Ukraine Safety Help Initiative. That call, coupled with the in depth coaching wanted to function the tanks, means it’ll take some time for the automobiles to be in Ukrainian fingers. 

“We’re speaking months versus weeks,” one senior administration official mentioned.

“[The Pentagon] is at present working by the mechanisms to ship the gasoline and tools Ukraine might want to function and to take care of the Abrams,” one other official added. “We do count on different nations to announce contributions of further armored functionality, together with some that will likely be available to be used on the battlefield within the coming weeks and months.”

David Martin, Eleanor Watson and Haley Ott contributed reporting.

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