Although it took some time, both Germany and the United States finally agreed to send advanced combat tanks to the Ukrainian army. Germany was unwilling to commit to sending their Leopard tanks to Ukraine unless Joe Biden’s administration made the first move by agreeing to send M1 Abrams tanks from Kyiv.
It was a ridiculous diplomatic dance. It was intended that the timing of the news would make it seem like the United States had made the commitment first. Because Olaf Schulz, Germany’s socialist prime minister, was hesitant to send the Leopards to the U.S. without it taking the lead, he didn’t want Russian President Vladimir Putin focusing his anger on him.
This is a serious escalation of the war. Russian armor is very impressive. The T-90 tank is just as powerful as any westbound tank. The Russian military has 600 T-90s, but only a third of them are stored and most of the rest are in disrepair. Analysts estimate that there are only 360 T-90s capable of combat readiness. Russia relies on the T-62, a cold war relic from the 1970s. Not by accident, Ukraine’s military also has T-62s.
The Abrams, 60 tons of American firepower and ingenuity, is still a formidable beast. According to the Pentagon, they will send 30 Abrams to Kyiv. The Leopard 2 is ideal for Ukraine’s open terrain east, where most of the tank battles will be fought.
Germany is ready to dip its toes in the water and announce that it will send 14 tanks to Ukraine. Other nations want to send more.
Other Western allies responded to the German chancellor’s expected to move and indicated that they would send tanks to Ukraine. According to El Pais, Spain, which owns 347 Leopards, is finalizing plans to send tanks to Kyiv. The Norwegian newspaper DN reports that Oslo may give up eight of its 36 Leopards.
Leading members of Scholz’s coalition partners, the Greens and Free Democratic Party (FDP) welcomed Scholz’s volte-face from the chancellor.
Poland is also willing to send a large number of Leopard 2’s from Poland to Kyiv. The British have already pledged 12 Challenger tanks for Ukraine and may increase this number as other countries send armor.
It’s not easy to understand the Abrams. The U.S. might include the Abrams in a future package of weapons that will be available after the war. However, this is still being discussed. It would be foolish to send Abrams tanks into an army that doesn’t know how to maintain or use them.
The U.S. has so far resisted the offer of its M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. This was due to the complex maintenance and logistical problems associated with high-tech vehicles. Washington believes that sending German Leopards to Ukraine would prove more productive, as many of its allies already have them. Additionally, Ukrainian troops would require less training on the more complex Abrams.
Colin Kahl, the Under Secretary of Defense, stated that the Abrams were complex, costly, difficult to maintain, and difficult to train on the piece. Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, stated that one thing he has always been focused on is that the Ukrainians should not receive systems that they cannot repair or sustain and that they can’t afford long-term.
Ukraine will receive its tanks. Russia won’t wait for the delivery to be completed. Do not be surprised if Russia increases its timeline for an offensive and strikes prior to the spring thaw.