USA y Germany announced on Wednesday that will send heavy tanks to Ukraineleaving behind long-standing vacillations with a forceful signal of Western backing for a counteroffensive capable of driving Russia back.
In a televised address, the president Joe Biden promised 31 Abrams tanks, one of the most powerful and sophisticated weapons of the US military.
Shortly before, the chancellor Olaf Scholz gave Germany the green light to send 14 tanques Leopard 2a decision that opens the floodgates for several other European countries with Leopard stocks to send their own contributions.
Although Western countries have already sent Ukraine everything from artillery to Patriot missile defense systems, tanks have long been considered a step further, with the risk of an increasing backlash from Russia.
But with Ukraine preparing for a counteroffensive against the Russians, increasingly entrenched in the east and south of the country, the allies are now rushing to send in the vital weapon.
Flanked by his Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Biden said increasing Western armaments for Ukraine’s military should not be seen as an attack on Russia.
“This is about helping Ukraine defend and protect its territory. It is not an offensive threat to Russia. There is no offensive threat to Russia,” Biden said.
Another flagrant provocation
Ukrainians, who have been pressing Western capitals for months to end arms restrictions so their troops can face the more heavily armed Russians, welcomed the news.
President Volodymyr Zelensky he called the promise of the Abrams tanks “an important step on the road to victory.”
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar said that Russia, with its “superior number of soldiers and weapons”, is “trying to break through” in the Donbas region.
President Zelensky asked the West for long-range missiles and fighter planes.
“should deliveries of long-range missiles to be possible for Ukraine,” he said on social media.
Russia made it clear that sending heavy tanks would cross a dangerous new line.
Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said US approval for the Abrams renditions would be “another blatant provocation against the Russian Federation.”
And the Russian ambassador to Germany, Sergei Nechaev, also warned that the “extremely dangerous decision brings the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts the statements of German politicians about the unwillingness of the German Federation to get involved in it.” .
The news of the tank supplies comes as Russia announces progress in Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine that has withstood months of attacks.
Ukraine’s army told AFP it had withdrawn from Soledar, another eastern city that Russia claimed to have captured earlier this month.
We need many Leopards
Germany had been reluctant to ship Leopards or even allow other countries that had purchased the tanks to re-export them to Ukraine.
US officials said they had not caved to German pressure for Washington to commit to sending the Abrams as a way to get Berlin to make a decision.
“Germany didn’t force me to change my mind. I wanted to make sure we’re all together,” Biden told reporters when asked about the coordinated announcement.
US officials themselves had been on the fence about sending Abrams tanks, describing the tanks as too complex for the Ukrainian military.
Unlike the German tanks, which are ready to ship, the M1 Abrams will have to be procured and will take months to reach Ukraine, a senior US official has said.
The 31 tanks will join a Ukrainian battalion.
Offers from Norway and Spain
Decisions by the United States and Germany galvanized multiple extra offers, with Norway offering two Leopards on Wednesday and Spain saying it would look at what it could send from its own stock of the German-made tank. Poland has already promised to be a major supplier.
In kyiv, Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andrey Yermak, said: “We need a lot of Leopards.”
Biden spoke by phone about Ukraine with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy, the White House said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Germany’s decision “strongly”.
And Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who had openly sought German approval to send the tanks, thanked Berlin for the decision, calling it “a big step to stop Russia.”
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