The US is expected to announce one of its largest military aid packages for Ukraine in the coming days, according to two US officials with knowledge of the plans. But Kyiv is pleading for modern tanks, a request that the United States is still unwilling to grant, despite the United Kingdom and Poland saying they will.
So far the US appears unable to send them, while the UK and other key allies are preparing to send tanks that could make a crucial difference in the war as Kyiv seeks counter- large-scale Russian aggression.
The UK has already announced that it will send 12 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, heralding a new step in the international effort to arm Kyiv and cross a red line previously held by the US and its European allies. .
Earlier this month, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country would provide the Leopard tank company to Ukraine, while Finland said tanks were being considered.
The United States, which has been at the forefront of providing military aid to Ukraine to counter the Russian invasion, now appears more cautious than key allies, even as it far outranks other countries in send aid to Ukraine.
The largest US security package to date, announced earlier this month, totaled more than $3 billion and included the first shipment of Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. The previous largest package was $1.85 billion and was announced in late December.
Tanks represent the most powerful direct offensive weapon supplied to Ukraine so far, an armored and armored system designed to face the enemy instead of firing from a distance. If used properly with the necessary training, they could allow Ukraine to retake territory against Russian forces that had time to dig defensive lines. The US has started supplying refurbished T-72 tanks from the Soviet era, but modern western generation tanks are ahead in terms of their ability to target enemy positions.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Tuesday that the UK had decided to “step up our support” to the Ukrainians by sending tanks and other heavy equipment because they want to send a “very clear message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin that support they with Ukraine so far. they are “victorious”.
“It’s not in anyone’s interest for this to be a long, drawn-out war,” said Cleverly at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “I mean, we see horrific images of civilian infrastructure, residential buildings being hit by missiles, women, children being killed, bodies being taken from collapsed buildings. We cannot allow it to go on any longer than is absolutely necessary … So the moral imperative is to bring this to an end.”
Ukraine has been seeking such tanks since almost the beginning of the Russian invasion. President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “1%” of NATO tanks in April, but it was an army the West was unwilling to seriously consider amid concerns about managing an escalation with Russia and the time it would take train tank operators and feeders.
Despite Britain’s change of heart, the US has shown no indication that it is preparing to launch its M-1 Abrams tank. He acknowledged a willingness to consider sending modern tanks, but they have been floated as a long-term option. But critics say the time is now as Ukraine braces for the possibility of Russia mobilizing more troops and launching new offensives. It would take weeks to train Ukrainian troops to use the Abrams effectively, so the window for a spring deployment is closing fast.
Retired Army Gen. Robert Abrams – the former commander of the US Forces in Korea whose father was the tank’s namesake – told CNN “the longer we delay a decision, and the longer we roll this slowly, precious time is being taken up we. .”
“If we end up saying, five months from now, ‘OK, we’re going to give them some M1 tanks, take your pick’ – we’ve just lost five months of preparation time. So the political decision must come sooner rather than later,” he said.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington’s support for Kyiv has grown during the war and made further announcements as he reiterated that the United States is determined to giving Ukraine “what it needs to make the war a success. battlefield.”
Speaking alongside Cleverly, Blinken praised the UK’s decision to send tanks. “I applaud the Prime Minister’s commitment over the weekend to send additional Challenger 2 tanks and artillery systems to Ukraine, elements that will continue to reinforce and complement what the United States has provided, including in our latest pulldown.”
But so far, no US official has indicated that the administration is likely to change its mind and send American tanks.
The Pentagon says it’s not a question of managing an escalation with Russia or questions about heavy US weapons falling into Russian hands. The concern is how difficult it is to operate and maintain the Abrams tank and whether the 70 ton tank would work for the Ukrainian forces.
“It’s a very different system than the tank generation they’re operating right now,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, former commander of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia. “So we would have to go through a major training program with the Army. It wouldn’t be something where you can just say, ‘Hey, we send you Abrams today and you’re fighting him tomorrow.’ That’s not even in the realm of possibility.”
Like the Patriot missile system training the Ukrainians are now starting in Oklahoma, the Abrams tank would not be an overnight fix – on top of significant maintenance and logistical challenges, the Ukrainians would have to undergo more training to learn how to use and maintain the tank. Abrams.
Recent announcements show how far the United States and its allies have come in a short period of time, from focusing on HIMARS and howitzers they already fielded to heavy armor, marking a “substantial” shift in the types of offensive weapons which goes to Ukraine. to give their military “a lot more capability”.
“We are trying to help Ukraine transition as quickly as possible into better, more capable and newer weapons systems that are more lethal on the battlefield,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling retired. But he warned that such an effort requires a massive military infrastructure to support it with people, parts and supplies in place.
Days earlier, before Poland said it would send tanks, the US announced it would send Bradley infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine for the first time – not tanks, but “tank killers,” the Pentagon said – as promised by France and Germany to send themselves. its versions of the armored vehicle.
The coordinated announcements from Washington and Berlin, as well as the Paris announcement shortly after, highlight how the United States and its NATO allies have moved significantly forward in agreement on the issue of advanced weapons and heavy. Instead of a single country unilaterally stepping out far ahead of others, the alliance remained in close cooperation, using the monthly meetings of the Ukrainian Contact Group to locate and organize arms shipments.
The next such meeting, which will take place in Germany on Friday, will be expected as high officials meet to discuss what else should be provided to the country under pressure.
The UK can send its Challenger 2 tank to Ukraine on its own, but Poland has admitted it needs approval from Berlin before exporting its German-made Leopard tank. A spokeswoman for the German government, Christiane Hoffmann, said last week that they had not received any such request from Poland or Finland. Hoffmann said that Germany is in close contact with the US, France, the UK, Poland and Spain regarding continued military assistance to Ukraine.
Germany indicated on Tuesday that it was reluctant to approve the shipments unless the US sends its own tank.
“We are never going it alone, because this is necessary in a very difficult situation like this,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
If Germany were to offer permission for countries to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, it would open up a potentially off-limits arms cache for Kyiv. About a dozen European countries operate the Leopard, which could provide Ukraine with an abundance of ammo and potential spare parts, as well as additional tanks once Ukrainian forces become familiar with the Leopard.
While the UK’s decision to send Challenger 2 tanks was welcomed by the Ukrainians, experts warned that too many tank variants would only stretch its ability to maintain them thinner.
“The more variety of tanks you put into the Ukrainian Army, the more it will challenge their logistics,” Donahoe said. “I mean the Challenger is a completely different system than the system [US-made] Abrams and a completely different system than the Leopard … There are significant challenges in integrating Challenger as well if they are going to get larger versions of the other westerns [main battle tanks].”