Biden approves sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, in reversal
President Biden on Wednesday approved the U.S. to send 31 Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine just hours after German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz said Ukraine would also receive Leopard 2 tanks from Berlin as Russia plans for a major offensive.
Biden said Western aid to Ukraine "is not an offensive threat to Russia."
The Wednesday decisions come after weeks of stalled and frustrated negotiations with Germany in what one senior defense official described as the "product of good diplomatic conversations."
"It really is remarkable if you look back over the last year to see the extraordinary shift in Germany's security policy," another senior defense official told reporters on background.
While Leopard 2 tanks from EU nations will require minimal turnaround time and will serve the immediate needs of Ukraine’s military forces, the shipment of Abrams tanks to Ukraine will take months.
Top U.S. defense officials, including Austin, had expressed reservations about sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine because of cost, maintenance requirements and the longer training periods needed to get Ukrainian soldiers up to speed on the combat vehicles.
Senior defense officials would not confirm if the decision to send the battalion of Abrams tanks was a stipulation of Berlin’s or motivation from Washington to get the ball rolling on Leopard tanks.
"Abrams tanks are the best in the world," a senior defense official said.
"This is a tremendous new capability that Ukraine will be getting to boost its long-term defenses."
The Pentagon is also working through the fuel and maintenance requirements that the Abram tanks demand and the U.S. will also send eight M88 recovery vehicles in support of the top tanks.
The Abrams tanks will be procured through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and will not come directly from U.S. stockpiles.
It remains unclear how long it will take to get the Abrams tanks up and running in Ukraine and defense officials did not say where the trainings will take place, though it was confirmed that the trainings would be held outside of Ukraine.