The United States will send 31 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden announced in a hastily scheduled speech on Wednesday, after Germany announced it would begin delivering its Leopard MBTs to the Kyiv government.
The speech was announced Wednesday morning as a last-minute addition to the White House schedule.
Calling the Abrams the “the most successful tanks in the world”, Biden noted that they are complicated to operate and maintain and as such Washington will also provide “the parts and equipment needed to effectively support these tanks on the battlefield.”
Biden insisted the tanks were a “defensive” a weapon and not a threat to Russia, while praising Ukraine as “fight for freedom” and pointing out that the announcement coincided with President Vladimir Zelensky’s birthday.
Earlier today, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin would send 14 of its own Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine and allow other EU and NATO countries to do the same with theirs. “We act in a closely coordinated manner at international level”, Scholz said in a statement.
Poland had been pushing to send the Leopards to Kyiv as part of a “international alliance” but the move required Berlin’s approval. German officials signaled last week that the United States should first commit to sending the Abrams tanks.
The U.S. military was reportedly reluctant, considering the turbine-powered, gas-guzzling Abrams to be too difficult to operate and maintain and too heavy for Ukraine’s infrastructure.
According to Biden, the United States and its allies have provided Ukraine with more than 3,000 armored vehicles and more than 8,000 artillery pieces to date. Moscow warned the West that such deliveries only prolong the conflict and risk dragging the West into a direct confrontation.
The Russian ambassador in Washington called the rumor of the delivery of American tanks to kyiv a “Another blatant provocation” speak “true aggressor” in the dispute, adding that they “probably to be destroyed” as well as other materials that NATO has dumped in Ukraine over the past year.