The United States and Germany send battle tanks to assist Ukraine in the war effort

Germany and the United States announced on Wednesday that they would send battle tanks to Ukraine, the first phase of a concerted effort by the West to provide dozens of heavy weapons to help Kyiv break the combat stalemate as Russia’s invasion enters its twelfth round. Month.

US President Joe Biden said the US would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks, reversing months of persistent arguments by Washington that they were too difficult for Ukrainian forces to operate and maintain.

The American decision comes after the approval of Germany To send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its stock. Germany said the Panthers would not be sent unless the US puts Abrams on the table, not wanting to anger Russia without the US making a similar pledge.

“This is the result of extensive consultations, once again, with our allies and international partners,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told German lawmakers. “It was right, and it’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to be pushed” into making the decision.

Biden said the European allies had agreed to send enough tanks to equip two Ukrainian tank battalions, or a total of 62 tanks.

“As spring approaches, Ukrainian forces are working to defend the territories they occupy and prepare for additional counterattacks,” Biden said. “To liberate their land, they must be able to counter the sophisticated Russian tactics and strategies on the battlefield at very close range.”

Many European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s announcement means it can give some of its stocks to Ukraine.

“German main battle tanks, expanding the range of defensive support and training tasks, gives the green light to partners to supply them with similar weapons. I just heard about these important and timely decisions on a call with Olaf Scholz,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter. “I am sincerely grateful to the chancellor and all our friends in[Germany].”

Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines welcomed the news, saying the decision comes at a critical juncture.

“Tanks will help reduce losses among our soldiers … then achieve new results and win this war faster,” said Oleksandr Sirotyuk, company commander of the 17th Tank Brigade deployed in Bakhmut.

Ukrainian soldiers and experts said Ukrainian forces are running out of spare parts to repair aging Soviet-era tanks and the specific ammunition they need while enduring relentless Russian artillery bombardment. An expected Russian offensive looms in the spring.

Although it will be months before they debut, the tanks will enable Ukrainian forces to launch counterattacks and reduce casualties, three military commanders, including two in the army’s tank division, told the Associated Press.

“Without the new tanks, we cannot win this war,” said Maxim Botulin, senior sergeant of the tank division of the 54th brigade. He spoke to the AP by phone earlier this week from near the Bakhmut front.

Sirotyuk said Ukrainian forces have had to conserve ammunition and deal with frequent breakdowns and maintenance issues.

“The main problem we have with our tanks is that they are outdated,” he said.

Expressing a preference for the Leopard 2, which he said is better suited to Ukraine’s terrain, Syrotiuk said that modern tanks have more accurate targeting systems, better armor and equipment to allow for night operations.

The German chancellor said in a statement that Schultz spoke by phone on Wednesday with Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The exchange focused on the security situation in Ukraine and continued to support Fight Ukraine.

The five leaders agreed to continue military support to Ukraine in close coordination between Europe and NATO.

The $400 million package announced by the United States on Wednesday also includes eight M88 recovery vehicles — tracked, tank-like vehicles that can tow an Abrams if it malfunctions.

In all, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will send hundreds of tanks and heavy armored vehicles to fortify Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and attempts to break through entrenched Russian lines.

While the Ukrainian partisans previously supplied the tanks, they are Soviet models in the stockpiles of nations that were once in Moscow’s sphere of influence but are now allied with the West. Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials insisted that their forces needed more modern Western tanks.

Russia’s ambassador to Germany, Sergei Nechayev, called Berlin’s decision “extremely dangerous”, saying it “brings the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts statements by German politicians about their reluctance to get involved in it”.

Schultz had insisted that any decision to supply Ukraine with powerful tanks It must be dealt with jointly with Germany’s allies, primarily the United States. By getting Washington to commit some of its own tanks, Berlin hopes to share the risk of any backlash from Russia.

Eckehard Pruss, head of the German Army’s Federal Academy for Security Policy, pointed to the decision’s deeper historical significance.

“German-made tanks will meet Russian tanks in Ukraine again,” he said, adding that this was “not an easy idea” for Germany, which takes its responsibility for the horrors of World War II very seriously.

“However, this is the right decision,” Bruce said, arguing that it was up to Western democracies to help Ukraine stop Russia’s military campaign.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius warned that it would take about three months for the first tanks to be deployed to Ukraine. He described the Leopard 2 as “the best battle tank in the world”.

The German government said it intends to quickly begin training Ukrainian tank crews in Germany. The package being assembled will also include logistics, ammunition and maintenance.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the German and American intentions “a somewhat disastrous plan”.

“I am convinced that many specialists understand the absurdity of this idea,” Peskov said.

Simply because of the technological aspects, this is a rather disastrous plan. The main thing is that this is a completely obvious overestimation of the potential (the supply of tanks) that would add to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “It’s another fallacy, a rather profound fallacy,” said the Kremlin official.

Peskov predicted that “these tanks will burn like all the others. … except that they cost a lot, and this will fall on the shoulders of European taxpayers. he added.

Prior to Schultz’s official announcement, members of his three-party coalition government welcomed cabinet approval for the supply of home-made tanks.

“Free the leopard!” said German lawmaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt, a senior member of parliament for the Green Party.

However, two smaller opposition parties criticized the move. The far-right Alternative for Germany, which has friendly relations with Russia, called the decision “irresponsible and dangerous”.

Party leader Tino Chrubala said: “Germany risks being drawn directly into war as a result.”

Schulz sought to reassure people in his country who were worried about the implications of sending tanks into Ukraine.

“Trust me, trust the government,” he said. “By working in an internationally coordinated manner, we will ensure that this support is possible without the risk of our country going in the wrong direction.”

Other European countries, such as Finland and Spain, indicated their willingness on Wednesday to give up their Leopard tanks or similar battle tanks as part of a larger alliance.

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A canine report from Kyiv, Ukraine. Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldur and Matthew Lee in Washington, Vanessa Gira in Warsaw, and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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