The leaders of the United States and Germany each announced Wednesday they will send contingents of tanks to Ukraine, reversing their longstanding trepidation at providing Kyiv with offensive armored vehicles and unleashing powerful new tools in Ukraine’s efforts to retake territory seized by Russia, CNN reports.
The announcement by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that he will send Leopard 2 tanks was coupled with an announcement from US President Joe Biden that he was providing 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing the administration’s longstanding resistance to requests from Kyiv for the highly sophisticated but maintenance-heavy vehicles.
The dual announcements made for a landmark moment that followed weeks of intense pressure on Berlin from some of its NATO allies. The decisions were the result of prolonged diplomacy between Germany, the United States and other European allies, and come as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares for a new Russian offensive this spring.
Speaking from the White House, Biden said the tanks would “enhance Ukraine’s capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives” in both the near and long terms.
And while he touted the ability of the tanks to help Ukraine “counter Russia’s evolving tactics and strategy on the battlefield,” Biden insisted they should not be viewed by Moscow as an “offensive threat.”
“This is not an offensive threat to Russia. There is no offensive threat to Russia if Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong,” he said.
Earlier, Scholz told lawmakers in Germany’s parliament the decision to send Leopard 2 tanks had come after consultations with western allies.
“It is right that we advanced bit by bit. That is the only principle that can work in such dangerous conditions,” he said.
The dispute over whether the Germans would send Leopards to support Ukraine threatened to show some of the first cracks in the united Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the announcement from Scholz and Biden show the US and its allies are still working in lockstep when it comes to supporting President Volodymyr Zelensky and his nation’s fight against the Russians.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “At This Hour” that the German and US decisions were “important announcements” and that he “welcomed US leadership” in making them happen.
“It will significantly strengthen their combat capabilities,” Stoltenberg said of the effect the tanks will have on Ukraine’s military.