Germany and the US have said they will send tanks to Ukraine, the first stage of a co-ordinated effort by the West to provide dozens of the heavy weapons to help Kyiv succeed on the battlefield as Russia’s invasion enters its twelfth month.
resident Joe Biden said the US will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, reversing months of persistent arguments by Washington that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.
The US decision follows Germany agreeing to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own stocks.
Germany had said the Leopards would not be sent unless the US put its Abrams on the table, not wanting to incur Russia’s wrath without the US similarly committing its own tanks.
Germany said it would initially provide Ukraine with one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, or 14 vehicles.
The goal is for Germany and its allies to provide Ukraine with 88 of the German-made Leopards, which comprise two battalions.
“This is the result of intensive consultations, once again, with our allies and international partners,” chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an address to German legislators.
“It was right and it is important that we didn’t let ourselves be driven into making the decision.”
Mr Biden said European allies have agreed to send enough tanks to equip two Ukrainian tank battalions, or a total of 62 tanks.
“With spring approaching, Ukrainian forces are working to defend the territory they hold and preparing for additional counter-offences,” the president said.
“To liberate their land, they need to be able to counter Russia’s evolving tactics and strategy on the battlefield in the very near term.”
Several European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s announcement means they can give some of their stocks to Ukraine.
Speaking in a video address late yesterday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the creation of what he described as a “tank coalition”.
“We must form a tank fist, a fist of freedom whose hits will not let tyranny stand up again,” he said.
He added that Ukraine will push for more weapons, including long-range missiles and aircraft.
“The terrorist state must lose. The right to life must be protected. And it will be so,” he said.
Mr Scholz spoke on the phone with Mr Biden, French president Emmanuel Macron, British prime minister Rishi Sunak and Italian premier Giorgia Meloni yesterday afternoon, the chancellery said in a statement.
All five leaders agreed to continue military support to Ukraine in close Euro-Atlantic co-ordination.
The long-awaited decision
came after US officials revealed on Tuesday a preliminary agreement for the US to send M1 Abrams tanks to help Ukraine’s troops push back Russian forces that remain entrenched in the country’s east almost a year after Russia invaded its neighbour.
France, the UK, the US, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will send hundreds of tanks and heavy armoured vehicles to fortify Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and attempts to break through entrenched Russian lines.
While Ukraine’s supporters have previously supplied tanks, they were Soviet models in the stockpiles of countries that once were in Moscow’s sphere of influence but are now aligned with the west.
Mr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials insisted their forces need more modern western-designed tanks.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Germany’s decision.
“At a critical moment in Russia’s war, these can help Ukraine to defend itself, win and prevail as an independent nation,” he wrote on Twitter.
Russia’s ambassador to Germany, Sergey Nechayev, called Berlin’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “extremely dangerous”, saying it “shifts the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts the statements
of German politicians about their reluctance to get involved in it”.