Germany okays Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine; U.S. promises M1 Abrams

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BERLIN — The German government on Wednesday announced plans to hand over 14 of the country’s Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, allowing other countries to send their own tanks. This ends months of debate between Western allies and could help shift the balance on the battlefield.

The Biden administration also plans to announce it on Wednesday. Dispatch of the M1 Abrams, the main battle tank of the United Statesprobably not until at least the fall, a senior U.S. official familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

In a statement, the German government said that in Europe, the goal was to quickly form two Leopard tank battalions (equivalent to about 80 tanks) for Ukraine. As a first step, Germany will provide a company of his 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from Bundeswehr inventories. Other European allies also provide tanks.

Ukrainian officials have high hopes for the Leopard 2. Fast and relatively easy to operate, the Leopard 2 is widely used in Europe, helping its armed forces gain an edge on the battlefield. It is not known when German tanks will be delivered.

What is special about the German Leopard 2 tank for Ukraine?

Berlin has long resisted calls to send tanks without coordinating with its allies, unwilling to be seen as directly participating in the war, prompting possible retaliation from Russia. , German officials said Link the decision to dispatch tanks to a similar move by the United States.

But increasing international pressure and an apparent reversal of Washington’s position on sending tanks appears to have added impetus.

“We are working closely together internationally,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement.

Germany, the manufacturer of one of Europe’s most widely used tanks, the Leopard 2, holds the key to the entire tank being prepared for delivery to Ukraine, as re-exports require Berlin approval. I was. Poland and many other European members of NATO had indicated they were ready to send Leopard 2s. Finland, Greece, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey all have at least 100 units. doing.

“The decision to release and hand over Leopard 2 was a difficult one, but it was inevitable,” said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chairman of the German parliamentary defense committee. murmured“This is good news for the devastated and brave Ukraine.”

The European allies had hoped to unveil the Leopard package at a conference on Ukraine held at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base last week. But the new defense minister in Berlin said Germany needed more time to make a “prudent” decision and assess its stocks.

A company of Leopards, or Poland, which plans to send 14 tanks, threatened to do so with or without Berlin’s permission as Germany held back. Poland formally requested permission for re-export from Germany and pressured Berlin to make a decision.

Top national security advisers from Germany, France, the UK and the US are also scheduled to meet in Washington on Wednesday to discuss Ukraine. Britain has said it will send a small number of Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

Agreeing to send the leopards is a big step for Ukraine to end the war “by winning,” said Norbert Retgen, a Christian Democrat MP and foreign policy expert. . But Germany’s refusal to act against European tanks without American contributions is a “devastating signal,” he said. murmured.

“Scholz succeeded in putting pressure on the American people on the condition that they would only succeed with America,” he added. “Washington will not forget it any time soon.”

A Pentagon spokesman said on January 24 that the United States supports Ukraine’s security requirements after President Biden’s decision to send M1 Abrams tanks to the country. (Video: US Department of Defense)

Ukrainian officials and U.S. lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to approve even a small number of Abrams tanks, arguing they would provide Berlin with the cover it needed to safely send its own tanks.

Another US official said the US will order at least 31 Abrams tanks and eight support vehicles under the program. It is purchased using funds from the Congressional-provided Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, rather than pulled from U.S. arsenals like many other weapons sent to Ukraine, officials said on condition of anonymity. The problem.

But as recently as last week, senior U.S. officials argued that Abrams was too burdened to operate and maintain Ukrainian forces.

‘I don’t think we’re there yet,’ said Undersecretary of Defense Colin Carl told reporters After returning from a visit to Kyiv last week. “Abrams is a very complicated piece of equipment. It’s expensive. It’s hard to train.”

Adding more modern tanks to the Ukrainian Armed Forces will help us understand how the United States or its allies will train Ukrainian forces to use them and incorporate them into battlefield formations alongside other recently provided Western equipment. I am questioning about

Polish officials said last week they were planning to start training Ukrainians on leopards in the next few days.

US gives Ukraine advanced M1 tanks

Another possibility might be to train more Ukrainian troops at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in the German Bavarian countryside. The US facility, Europe’s largest of its kind, began accepting battalions of more than 600 Ukrainian troops this month, incorporating artillery, infantry fighting vehicles and other Western weapons into “combined arms” warfare. I learned how to keep attacking with. This facility is also used for tank training.

At about 55 tons, the leopard is slightly smaller than Abrams, who weighs over 65 tons. German tanks run on ubiquitous diesel fuel, but Abrams generally has a multi-fuel turbine engine that can accept other types, although he runs on JP-8 jet fuel.

Lamothe and DeYoung reported from Washington. Contributed by her Vanessa Guinan-Bank of Berlin.

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