Germany and U.S. Pledge to Send Battle Tanks to Ukraine

With the precision of a military exercise, first Germany and then the United States announced on Wednesday that agreed to supply battle tanks to help Ukraine fight back against the invading Russian forces.

To reach an agreement, the two countries freed themselves from a diplomatic mess that had attracted the attention of Western officials for weeks and exposed divisions among Ukraine’s allies.

Ukraine’s leaders, keeping an eye on the uphill battles that many assumed would take place in the spring, urged Germany to send in their lauded tank, the Leopard 2. Berlin against.

Germany made it clear that it would proceed only if the United States sent its own powerful tank, the M1 Abrams. Washington is against.

At the same time, Poland threatened to supply Ukraine with Leopards from its own inventory – with or without German permission.

On Wednesday, resistance appeared to be a thing of the past.

“These tanks are further proof of our unwavering, unwavering commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of Ukrainian forces,” President Biden said at the White House. .

Hours earlier, after Germany announced that it would send Leopards to Ukraine and allow other countries to send their own, Prime Minister Olaf Scholz defended his country’s cautious approach.

“We’re talking about very effective weapons systems here and it’s right that we never supply those weapons systems alone,” Scholz told lawmakers in Congress. close cooperation”.

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has been a strong advocate for tanks, welcomed the news. He called it “an important step on the road to victory.” But if Ukraine is enjoying the coming cavalry moment, it’s clear that it won’t come anytime soon.

The first Leopard could take months to reach the battlefield, and the Abrams a year or so. The number of tanks will also be far fewer than the hundreds that Ukraine says it needs to defeat the Russians.

However, military experts say, Germany’s decision to send tanks from its own depots has paved the way for dozens of other European countries to send in tanks of their own – a movement to transport heavy weapons. which could ultimately help Ukrainian forces reduce Russia’s advantage in numbers and equipment, military experts say.

Overall, Kiev reached an agreement with a sufficient number of tanks for about three new Ukrainian battalions. The United States said it would send 31 Abrams tanks, and Germany said it would send an initial shipment of 14 Leopards.

The announcements were welcomed by Ukraine’s allies.

“At a critical juncture in Russia’s war, these things could help Ukraine defend itself, win and prevail as an independent nation,” said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland said the transfer of Leopards was “a big step forward” and the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said Germany had made the “right decision”.

The news received a much colder reception from the Kremlin.

Sergey Yuryevitch Nechayev, Russian Ambassador to Germany, said in statement that Ukraine’s allies had made an “extremely dangerous decision” that “brought the conflict to a new level of confrontation.”

The statement also accused Berlin of abdicating its “historic responsibility towards Russia” arising from Nazi aggression during World War II. That history, and Decades of Relativism followed by Germany, which played a major role in its reluctance to send tanks.

For all the talk of a united alliance that followed the tank announcements – “Together, we are stronger,” declared the Polish prime minister – in the weeks before the deal was signed. , there are signs that the allies may be starting to go their separate ways.

“We will not stand by and watch Ukraine bleed to death,” Morawiecki said over the weekend. “Ukraine and Europe will win this war – with or without Germany.”

Legally, Germany must allow the transfer of German-made tanks from one country to another, but the Polish leader stressed that whether Berlin approves it or not, Warsaw will build an alliance. composed of countries willing to donate some of Europe’s most advanced weapons.

News of the tank deal came on a day when Ukrainian forces were defeated on the battlefield, having to retreat from the small eastern town of Soledar after weeks of fierce fighting. A military spokesman acknowledged that Ukraine’s withdrawal there would bring Russian forces closer to encircling and possibly capturing the strategic eastern city of Bakhmut.

The spokesman, Colonel Sergei Cherevaty, said the retreat had been ordered “to protect our personnel.”

As winter approaches, fighting in Ukraine has slowed considerably, and many decisions made by Ukrainian officials and their allies are now based on the belief that with the onset of spring, a new phase of the conflict will begin. war too.

The tanks that Berlin and Washington had promised on Wednesday would not be delivered in time to help Ukraine defend towns and cities near Bakhmut, where Russian forces recently advanced in a ground offensive. tired.

Indeed, it may take several months before they are rolled out.

Bringing them into the conflict zone is not an easy task and the Ukrainian military still needs training to use the powerful Western war machines. In particular, the Abrams tank is a particularly complex machine that is difficult to operate and maintain.

General Robert B. Abrams, a former four-star US Army general who retired in 2021 with decades of experience — the tank is named after him dad – echo the concerns of other logistics professionals. Several Pentagon leaders said the Ukrainian military would have a hard time repairing and maintaining a fleet of gas-guzzling tanks. And that’s after getting them there.

“How long will it take to get there — to be able to build stockpiles, transport vehicles, train crew, train mechanics, gather everything you need — how long will it take?” General Abrams said in an interview. “I don’t know, but it’s not 30 days, I can tell you that.”

On Wednesday, when a reporter asked if Germany had forced him to change his mind about tanks, Biden said: “Germany didn’t force me to change my mind. I want to make sure we’re all together.”

He also rejected Moscow’s argument that sending tanks was an escalation.

“There is no threat of attack against Russia,” Biden said. “If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war will end today.”

Report contributed by Christopher F. Schuetze, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Michael Schwirtz, Lara Jakes and Thomas Gibbons-Neff.


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