Officials announced Tuesday that, in spite of resistance from the Pentagon, the Biden administration will announce its intention to send Abrams M-1 tank tanks to Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, has long desired tanks. They would be the most powerful weaponry among the many billions of dollars in American military aid sent to Ukraine to repel a Russian invasion.
The tanks are complex, firepower-packed and sophisticated, so it may take months, if not years, before they reach the battlefield. Ukrainian fighters have been trained to use the equipment.
The tank “is a very capable battlefield platform,” he said Tuesday, adding, “it’s also very complex capability.”
“And so, like anything that we’re providing to Ukraine, we want to ensure that they have the ability to maintain it, sustain it, to train on it.”
He emphasized he was not announcing a decision to supply the tanks “at this time,” an official position repeated at the White House and State Department.
Colin Kahl (the undersecretary of Defense policy) stated last week that the Pentagon was not ready to send Abrams tank tanks to Ukraine. He claimed that Abrams tanks can be difficult to maneuver, and the engines are gas-guzzling, which makes them costly to fuel.
Pentagon leadership, he told reporters, “has been very focused on … not providing the Ukrainians systems they can’t repair, they can’t sustain, and that they, over the long term, can’t afford, because it’s not helpful.”
However, U.S. officials also want to send a message to Germany. Germany has not been willing to provide its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine without the U.S. offering tanks.
Germany may be changing its position after decades of being a post-World War II official position of pacifism. Poland, for instance, has Leopard tanks it would love to ship to Ukraine but has not been granted permission by Germany.
However, Poland suggested that it would send tanks to Germany with or without German authorization in recent days. German Foreign Minister Annalena Bock stated Sunday that her country would not object to the tanks being sent.
U.S. officials state that the Leopard pales in comparison with the Abrams. However it would be easier to operate first on European terrain because of its long-term experience.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, whose aides say has been deeply involved in finding ways to boost Ukraine, met early Tuesday with representatives of the Group of Seven of the world’s most advanced economies to discuss Russian destruction of Ukraine’s electrical grid, heating, water and other energy sources.
They did not mention tanks or any other weapons in public, and Ned Price, State Department spokesperson declined to confirm a decision regarding the Abrams.
“Needless to say, this is an ongoing conversation, and it is a conversation that allows us to be responsive to the needs of our Ukrainian partners,” Price said in a briefing with reporters when asked if a decision had been made.
He said that the amount of military aid provided by the U.S. and Europe since Russia invaded nearly a year ago was “staggering.” The Pentagon and other countries’ defense operations have gradually ratcheted up the kind of weapons sent, from shoulder-fired antitank javelin missiles to, most recently, the sophisticated Patriot air defense system.
But tanks were a new line to cross, with some U.S. officials worried at the sight — if the Ukrainians were ill-prepared — of destroyed and disabled Abrams crippled in the battlefield and being hauled away by the Russians. And other officials predicted, accurately, that Moscow would be furious at what it would label another “escalation” by the West.
They have been faced with increasingly difficult conditions in Ukraine where Russian forces have bombarded civilian infrastructure and apartment complexes as the winter freeze sets in.
A further development in Ukraine was Tuesday’s firing or forced resignation of at least nine top government officials, including the deputy defense minister. This happened as part a corruption scandal. Zelensky was elected2019 saw a huge increase in the number of pledges to eliminate corruption, which has long plagued Ukraine.
Some of the allegations relate to mishandled wartime materials, according to Ukrainian officials. But, U.S. officials stated that they are not aware of specific malfeasances involving material U.S.-sourced.
Sometimes, corruption played an interesting role in the history of Ukraine. Biden, then vice president, pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who the European Union claimed refused to investigate corruption cases. The Zelensky government was later accused by then-President Trump, along with his associates, of widespread corruption. It refused to give him any information about the Biden family.
Some Republican members of Congress along with some Democrats have called for greater accountability and transparency in U.S. assistance to Ukraine. The Pentagon claims that all controls and checks have been in place.
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