The United States said on Wednesday it would supply Ukraine with 31 of its most advanced battle tanks after Germany broke a taboo with a similar announcement, moves hailed by Kyiv as a potential turning point in its battle to repel Russia’s invasion.
The U.S. decision to deliver M1 Abrams tanks helped break a diplomatic logjam with Germany over how to best help Kyiv in its war with Russia, which hours earlier had condemned Berlin’s decision to provide Leopard 2 tanks as a dangerous provocation.
Washington had been wary of the idea of deploying the difficult-to-maintain Abrams but had to change tack to persuade Germany to send its more easily operated Leopard 2 tanks – the workhorse of NATO armies across Europe – to Ukraine.
President Joe Biden announced the U.S. decision in remarks at the White House, saying the tanks were needed to help the Ukrainians “improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain.”
Biden thanked Germany for its move and listed further military hardware that NATO allies and other European countries were supplying. “Germany has really stepped up,” he said.
“The expectation on the part of Russia is we’re going to break up,” Biden said of the United States and European allies. “But we are fully, totally and thoroughly united.”
Kyiv has been calling for months for Western main battle tanks that would give its forces greater firepower, protection and mobility to break through long-static front lines and potentially reclaim occupied territory in the east and south.
Senior Biden administration officials said it would take some months for the Abrams to be delivered and described the move as providing for Ukraine’s long-term defence.
“There is no offensive threat to Russia (itself),” Biden said. Moscow increasingly casts the war as a perilous face-off between Russia and the U.S.-led NATO alliance.