The US expected to send Abram’s M-1 tanks to Ukraine, sending a political message to Germany

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A soldier walks past a line of M-1 Abrams tanks at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2016. (Christian Murcock/The Singapore Time)

Barring resistance from the Pentagon and elsewhere, the Biden administration plans to announce a decision to send Abram’s M-1 tanks to Ukraine, officials said Tuesday.

The tanks, long sought after by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, would provide the heaviest weapons yet among the billions of dollars in military aid Washington has sent to Ukraine to repel a brutal Russian invasion.

But given the sophistication, complexity and firepower of the tanks, it could take months or even more than a year to reach the battlefield and train Ukrainian fighters to use the equipment.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, in a nod to objections from Defense Department officials, said the Abrams tank was an important asset in the battle, but not one that is easy to operate.

The tank “is a very capable battlefield platform,” he said Tuesday, adding, “it’s also a very complex capability.”

“And so, like anything we supply to Ukraine, we want to make sure they have the ability to keep it, keep it, train on it.”

He stressed that he was not announcing a decision to resupply the tanks “at this time,” an official position echoed in the White House and State Department.

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Just last week, Colin Kahl, the Secretary of State for Defense Policy, said the Pentagon was not willing to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine. fuel.

The Pentagon leadership, he told reporters, “is very focused on … not delivering systems to the Ukrainians that they can’t fix, that they can’t maintain and that they can’t afford in the long run, because it’s not helpful.”

But US officials are also keen to send a political signal to Germany, which is hesitant to supply its own Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine unless the US also offers tanks.

Germany may be softening its position, born of decades of official post-World War II pacifism. And Poland, for example, has Leopard tanks that it would like to ship to Ukraine, but has requested permission from Germany to do so.

In recent days, however, Poland has suggested sending the tanks with or without German permission. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday that her country would no longer object.

The Leopard pales in comparison to the Abrams, US officials say, but would initially be easier to operate in European terrain, where it has long experience.

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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, whose aides say they have been deeply involved in finding ways to boost Ukraine, met with representatives from the Group of Seven of the world’s most advanced economies early Tuesday to try and avoid Russia’s destruction. of the electricity grid, heating and water supply of Ukraine. and other energy sources.

They made no public mention of tanks or other weapons, and State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to confirm a decision about the Abrams.

“Needless to say, this is an ongoing conversation, and it’s a conversation that will allow us to respond to the needs of our Ukrainian partners,” Price said in a briefing with reporters when asked if a decision had been made.

He said the amount of military aid provided by the US and Europe since Russia invaded nearly a year ago was “staggering”. The Pentagon and other countries’ defense operations have gradually ramped up the types of weapons, from shoulder-fired anti-tank javelin-throwing missiles to, most recently, the advanced Patriot air defense system.

But tanks formed a new line to cross, and some U.S. officials were concerned about the sight—if the Ukrainians were ill-prepared—of destroyed and disabled Abrams crippled on the battlefield and dragged away by the Russians. And other officials accurately predicted that Moscow would be outraged by what it called another “escalation” by the West.

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Yet they also face deteriorating conditions in Ukraine, where Russian forces have been bombing apartment complexes and civilian infrastructure as winter freezes.

In another development in Ukraine on Tuesday, at least nine senior government officials, including a deputy defense minister, have been sacked or forced to resign as part of a corruption scandal. Zelensky was elected in 2019 in a landslide on pledges to stamp out the rampant corruption that has long plagued Ukraine.

Some of the allegations are related to mishandled war supplies, Ukrainian officials said, but US officials said they were not yet aware of any specific crime involving US material.

Corruption has played a sometimes curious role in Ukrainian history. When he was vice president, Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor accused by the European Union of refusing to investigate corruption cases. Later, then-President Trump and his associates accused the Zelensky administration of widespread corruption when they refused to help him dig up dirt on the Biden family.

Currently, some Republican members of Congress, along with several Democrats, have demanded better accountability and transparency with US aid to Ukraine. The Pentagon has insisted that checks and controls are already in place.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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