Biden announces the shipment of 31 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine

For months, the United States has rejected Ukraine’s requests to send M1 Abrams tanks. That changed on Wednesday, as part of a military buildup coordinated with its European partners to send the Ukrainian army’s newest main battle tanks with an eye on possible Russian offensives this year.

Joe Biden appeared from the White House to announce the change of heart, just hours after the German government confirmed shipments of Leopard 2 tanks and authorized shipments of other tanks made in Germany by European allies. “We will send 31 Abrams tanks, the equivalent of a Ukrainian battalion,” confirmed the US president, who shortly before had spoken with the leaders of Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy — his main NATO partners — to finalize the deal.

“It is the most powerful tank in the world”Biden said of the M1 Abrams, one of the jewels of the US military, which along with the Tiger could mean a significant strengthening of the Ukrainian military in the face of a possible Russian attack this spring; And above all, they can allow a new Ukrainian counterattack to recapture part of the territories conquered by Russia. “It is very complicated to use and maintain,” the US president warned.

His administration has been reluctant to deliver powerful weapons to Ukraine, with the intention that Russia not view this as direct participation in the war. However, since the summer, it has increased its shipments of military equipment – there are already more than 20,000 million dollars – and the development of its weapons: a shipment of, among other things, the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system or armored cars already approved transport and attack Bradley.

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The Pentagon’s justification for rejecting the shipment of the M1 Abrams was its operational difficulty: It required a lot of training and a proper logistical structure to be able to fuel its fuel-guzzling battle tanks. Biden acknowledged that “it will take time to get the tanks to the front.” “That time will be used to ensure that the Ukrainians are fully prepared to integrate Abrams into their defences.”

Shipping will take months

The Biden administration has made it clear that the tanks will not come out of stock, but will be ordered from the companies in the military sector that make them and will take “months, not weeks” to reach Ukraine.

Ukrainians will be trained outside their country. One possibility is the US base in Grafnohr, Germany, where the largest training courses for Ukrainian soldiers to date have begun, with 600 soldiers.

Biden’s announcement came after weeks of negotiations with his partners: Germany did not want to accept the Panther shipment if the United States did not do the same with the M1 Abrams, something that finally happened. When asked by Biden if he gave in due to pressure from Olaf Schultz’s government, the US president replied: “Germany did not force me to change my mind. I wanted to make sure we are all together,” said Biden, who celebrated Berlin’s “step forward.”

Indeed, Biden focused much of his speech on hailing “total and comprehensive unity” in support of Kyiv’s western allies, after a few weeks in which cracks appeared over the issue of sending tanks. “Putin hopes that the support of the European Union and the United States will weaken over time,” he said. “I was wrong then, and I still am,” he added. The US President mentioned fifteen European countries by name for their contributions, from powers such as France and the United Kingdom to less important countries such as Norway and Slovakia. Among them was not Spain.

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