Aside from resistance from the Pentagon and elsewhere, the Biden administration plans to announce a decision to send M-1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, officials said Tuesday.
The tanks, ordered by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, will provide the heaviest weapon yet among the billions of dollars in military aid Washington has sent to Ukraine to help fend off Russia’s brutal invasion.
But given the sophistication, complexity and firepower of tanks, it can take months or even more than a year before they reach the battlefield and Ukrainian fighters are trained to use the equipment.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. General Pat Ryder, referring to the objections of Department of Defense officials, said the Abrams tank has been a major asset in combat, but it is not an easy one to operate.
He said Tuesday that the tank is “a very capable fighting platform”.
“It’s also a very complex capability,” he added. “And so, like anything we offer to Ukraine, we want to make sure that they have the ability to maintain it, maintain it, and train it.”
He confirmed that he had not announced a decision to supply the tanks “at this time,” an official position that was repeated in the White House and the State Department.
But US officials are also keen to send a political message to Germany, which has been reluctant to offer its Leopard tanks to Ukraine unless the US provides the tanks as well.
Perhaps Germany is softening its stance, born of decades of formal pacifism after World War II. Poland, for example, has Leopard tanks that it would like to ship to Ukraine, but has asked Germany’s permission to do so.
However, in recent days Poland has suggested that it will send tanks with or without German permission. Germany has hinted that it will no longer object.
US officials say the Leopard pales in comparison to the Abrams, but it will be easier to initially operate on European terrain, where it has longstanding experience.