The White House’s decision to greenlight American tanks for Ukraine unlocked deliveries of German tanks but contravened the opinion of the Department of Defense (DOD) that the U.S. should not signal that support for Ukraine is unlimited in the long term, according to Reuters.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Germany last week with a goal of convincing Chancellor Olaf Scholz to approve the delivery of German Leopard 2s for Ukraine, widely seen as the most available main battle tanks to supplement Ukraine’s ground forces, in lieu of providing American-made M1 Abrams, Reuters reported, citing a senior official. U.S. officials wanted to appease Ukraine’s demands for heavy armored vehicles but also make the point that the U.S. maintained limits to assistance for Ukraine in the long term, according to the outlet.
However, on Wednesday, senior U.S. officials said the U.S.’ decision came amid a desire to preserve unity among Ukraine’s allies and represents a long term commitment to Ukraine’s defense.
“We see multiple countries across the broad coalition we built stepping up to send a strong message of support to our long term commitment to Ukraine,” an official said.
Scholz publicly linked the delivery of German tanks with a simultaneous delivery of American M1 Abrams, locking the two capabilities together to the consternation of the White House and DOD, Reuters reported.
DOD maintained that the powerful but extremely complex Abrams tanks involved more investment in training, logistics, fuel and sustainment than would translate to a battlefield advantage for Ukraine, according to Reuters. At the same time, multiple European countries operating German Leopard 2s, including Spain, Poland and Finland, expressed willingness to supply Ukraine with their tanks if only Germany would allow it, The New York Times reported.
“The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said recently, according to the NYT. “We should not be providing the Ukrainians systems they can’t repair, they can’t sustain, and that they, over the long term, can’t afford, because it’s not helpful.”
Today, I announced that the United States will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine – evidence of our enduring and unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of Ukrainian forces.
As I told President Zelenskyy, we’re with Ukraine for as long as it takes. pic.twitter.com/OvG3Yh55kx
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 25, 2023
U.S. officials asked Berlin to hold off on publicly making American tanks a condition of Germany’s decision to approve its own equipment for Ukraine at some point during Austin’s trip, according to Reuters. The pressure appeared to work for a few days.
However, the Biden administration made a surprise announcement to send 31 Abrams — the equivalent of one Ukrainian tank battalion — directly from production, coinciding with Berlin’s announcement to provide two battalions’ worth of Leopards, according to Reuters. American tanks will not arrive in Ukraine for several months, while the German tanks will arrive sooner in an apparent compromise.
Scholz conveyed to Biden in a Jan. 5 call his hesitance to unilaterally deliver tanks may have stemmed from fears of replaying scenes from World War II, according to the NYT.
The Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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