WASHINGTON: The United States announced on Wednesday (Jan 25) it will supply Ukraine with 31 advanced M1 Abrams tanks worth US$400 million in a matter of months, a decision that helped break a diplomatic logjam with Germany over how best to help Kyiv in its war against Russia.
President Joe Biden announced the decision at the White House, saying the tanks are needed to help the Ukrainians "improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain."
Biden thanked Germany for its decision to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks, and listed the other on-the-ground military hardware other NATO allies and other European countries were supplying. "Germany has really stepped up," he said.
"The expectation on the part of Russia is we’re going to break up,” Biden said of the US and European allies. “But we are fully, totally and thoroughly united.”
The United States had been cool to the idea of deploying the difficult-to-maintain Abrams tanks but had to change tack in order to persuade Germany to send its more easily used Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
The decisions by Washington and Berlin come as the Western allies help Ukraine prepare for a possible spring counter-offensive to try to drive Russia out of territory it has seized.
"There is no offensive threat to Russia" from the tanks, Biden said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any Abrams shipments would be a waste of money as they "burn" like other tanks in Ukraine.
The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, hailed the tank announcements as a "historic day" that would help determine the outcome of the war.
Biden said the US decision was not in response to pressure from Germany, answering a reporter's shouted question. "Germany didn't force me to change my mind, we wanted to make sure we were all together," he said.
MONTHS FOR DELIVERY
The Abrams - among the most powerful US tanks - will not be heading to Ukraine anytime soon.
Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the decision said it will take months, not weeks, for the Abrams to be delivered and described the move in terms of providing for Ukraine's long-term defence.
Members of the Ukrainian military will be trained on using the Abrams in a yet-to-be determined location. While a high...