White House explains tanks for Ukraine pledge
The decision to send M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine was prompted by changes in warfare between Moscow and Kiev, as well as the evolving situation on the ground, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby explained on Wednesday.
“We have been, from the beginning of this war now 11 months ago, have been evolving the capabilities we’re providing with Ukraine, with the conditions on the ground,” Kirby told a press briefing shortly after US President Joe Biden announced he would dispatch 31 tanks to Kiev.
“What’s changed… are the conditions on the ground and the kinds of fighting that the Russians are doing right now, and the kinds of fighting, more importantly, that we believe the Ukrainians are going to need to be capable of in the weeks and months ahead, well into 2023,” Kirby went on, apparently referring to an anticipated offensive by Ukrainian forces.
The tanks will not be transferred to Ukraine at once, he noted, but will make it into the country in “many months.” At the same time, the training of Ukrainian crews to operate the 62-ton behemoths is set to begin shortly.
“[The tanks] are going to require some unique maintenance and operational requirements on the Ukrainians, which is why we want to make sure that we get them trained up. So that train is going to start very soon, and then the tanks will follow,” Kirby said.
The Abrams announcement came as Washington’s European allies agreed to supply Kiev's forces with German-made Leopard 2 tanks. Berlin, long reluctant to deliver the advanced armored vehicles to Ukraine, has finally agreed to allow third countries operating the tanks to re-export them to Ukraine, and pledged to provide 14 Leopards from its domestic stocks as well.
The new deliveries come on top of the continuous lavish military support poured into Ukraine by the West over the nearly year-long conflict. According to the latest statements from Biden, the US and its allies have provided Ukraine with over 3,000 armored vehicles and more than 8,000 artillery pieces so far. The official readout of Biden’s speech, however, has lowered the latter figure to 800 pieces.
Moscow has repeatedly urged the West to stop “pumping” Ukraine with weaponry, warning that the enduring aid would not change the ultimate outcome of the conflict but rather only prolong the hostilities and inflict more suffering on common Ukrainians.