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Biden says the US will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine in a major firepower boost

Washington – President Biden announced Wednesday that the United States will send 31 planes at the highest level M1 Abrams battle tank to Ukraine, meeting a major request from Kyiv that would provide a major boost to Ukrainian firepower over the coming months.

“Today, I am announcing that the United States will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion,” Biden said at the White House, flanked by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The Pentagon said the security package is worth about $400 million.

The move comes after Germany said it would do so Fast forward 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allowing Western partners to re-export their tanks, a move Mr. Biden applauded. Biden noted that France, the United Kingdom, Finland, the Netherlands and other countries are also sending major security aid, stressing that the US move is part of a coordinated effort by Western allies.

“Today’s announcement builds on the serious work and commitment of countries around the world, led by the United States of America, to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Mr. Biden. “That’s what this is about, helping Ukraine protect and defend Ukrainian territory. It’s not an offensive threat to Russia. There is no offensive threat to Russia. If Russian forces go back to Russia… where they belong, this war will end today.”

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It will take several months for the Abrams tanks to be delivered, given the time needed to purchase them and train Ukrainian forces in their use.

A US M-1 Abrams tank fires during a NATO exercise in Latvia on March 26, 2021.
A US Army M1 Abrams tank is fired during a NATO exercise in Latvia on March 26, 2021.

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On a call with reporters reviewing the president’s announcement, senior administration officials said the decision to supply the tanks is “a continuation of our efforts to provide Ukraine with the capabilities they need to continue to better defend themselves.” Mr. Biden spoke to the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom on Wednesday morning before his remarks.

Biden said the M1 Abrams is the US Army’s flagship tank system and “the most capable tank in the world.” Ukrainian officials are pleading with Western allies for tanks to bolster counter-offensives in the spring aimed at recapturing areas held by dug-in Russian forces. The United States and more than 50 other countries committed to providing nearly 500 more armored vehicles during the talks last week.

Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles are key to helping Ukraine fight the Russians on open terrain, such as that in the mostly flat Donbass region, which has seen heavy fighting between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

American officials have for weeks resisted arming the Ukrainians with Abrams tanks, saying that the Leopard tanks, which run on diesel instead of the jet fuel needed to power the Abrams, are better suited to meeting the Ukrainians’ immediate needs on the battlefield. But Pressure From other allies – especially Poland and the Baltic states – and the Ukrainians themselves to supplying Kyiv with advanced tank systems has been building for weeks.

One of the US officials on the call on Wednesday said the tanks would help Ukraine defend itself against Russian attacks expected in the spring and help Ukrainian forces retake territory.

“We want to make sure they have the right capabilities to not only defend themselves against Russian attack — and we expect Mr Putin and the Russian military to try to go on the offensive here in the coming weeks and months, as the weather clears — but they also have the ability to regain control,” the official said. on their sovereign lands, including Crimea.

The US announcement fell on the birthday of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He told a German television network on Tuesday that the tanks from the Western allies would provide a much needed morale boost to his soldiers on the front lines.

“They do one very important thing – they motivate our soldiers to fight for their own values, because they show that the whole world is with you,” Zelensky said.

Tanks will not come directly from the US arsenal. Instead, the administration will purchase the systems using funds from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. This decision, along with the extensive training required to operate the tanks, meant that it would take some time for the vehicles to be in Ukrainian hands.

“We’ve been talking for months versus weeks,” said a senior administration official.

“[The Pentagon] He is currently working through mechanisms to deliver the fuel and equipment that Ukraine will need to operate and maintain the Abrams. used on the battlefield in the coming weeks and months.”

David Martin, Eleanor Watson and Haley Ott contributed reporting.

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