US decides to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, but not anytime soon
The White House agrees to send the advanced US-made tanks to Kiev in a months-long process.
The United States decided to supply 31 of its M1 Abrams main battle tank to Ukraine, a delivery to be fulfilled in a matter of months, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden considered the $400 million decision essential to assist Ukrainians "improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain."
Commenting on Germany's decision to provide Kiev with the Leopard 2 tanks, Biden thanked Berlin for its decision and said that "Germany has really stepped up."
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Biden also thanked other NATO and EU allies that are sending military equipment to Ukraine.
"Germany didn't force me to change my mind, we wanted to make sure we were all together," he added, responding to a reporter's question about Berlin's influence on his decision.
Earlier in the day, German government Spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit announced that Berlin had decided to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
Later, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany will coordinate all such tank deliveries to Kiev and provide a training program for Ukrainian tank crews.
Commenting on Berlin's announcement, the Russian Embassy in Germany cautioned that “this extremely dangerous decision shifts the Ukrainian conflict to a new level of standoff,” adding that “Berlin’s choice to supply tanks to Kiev means the final rejection of Germany’s historical responsibility to the Russian people.”
"The expectation on the part of Russia is we’re going to break up,” Biden stated referring to Kiev's western allies.
“But we are fully, totally and thoroughly united.”
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However, Biden claimed that "there is no offensive threat to Russia" from the advanced American tanks sent to Kiev.
On his part, Russia's Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said on Tuesday that the delivery will become another "blatant provocation" against Russia and warned that the Russian military would destroy the equipment.
"If the United States decides to supply tanks, it will be impossible to justify such step using arguments about 'defensive weapons'," Antonov added.
Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also stressed that Abrams supplied to Ukraine will be a waste of money, stating that they will "burn" like other tanks on the battlefield.
The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andriy Yermak dubbed the battle tank decision a "historic day" that would help influence the war outcome.
Months for delivery
According to US officials that announced the decision, the tanks will take months to be delivered to Ukraine, noting that the step aims to provide Ukraine with long-term defense.
The location upon which Ukrainian servicemen will train on operating the M1 Abrams was not yet determined.
Costing around $10 million a piece, the US-made complex battle tank is very difficult to maintain and will pose a logistical challenge to be resupplied as it operates on jet fuel.
Senior administration officials said Biden had spoken to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on multiple occasions this month about assistance to Ukraine. He talked again on Wednesday to Scholz as well as to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron, both of whom are close allies in helping Ukraine.
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"Today's announcement really was a product of good diplomatic conversations as part of our regular and ongoing close consultations with allies and partners on security assistance to Ukraine," said one official, noting that Biden spoke to the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday, in addition to British Prime Minster Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron regarding assistance to Ukraine.
"I am certain that many experts understand the absurdity of this idea," Kremlin's Peskov stated about the US tanks.
"The plan is disastrous in terms of technology," he added.
"But above all, it overestimates the potential it will add to the Ukrainian army. These tanks burn just like all the others."
On Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing a source informed on the matter, that the US decision to supply the Abrams to Ukraine was part of talks with Berlin about their hesitation to send the Leopards and to confirm that Washington's commitment was solid.
"The United States was willing to make a significant commitment to assist them in making theirs," the source told the news site.
"The tanks are an important capability and if it took U.S. leadership then that's what we were willing to do."
The tanks will be funded by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which enables Washington to purchase arms from the industry rather than US military stocks, however, this process is significantly slower.