In a joint deal, the US and Germany will send tanks to the battlefield in Ukraine, caving to repeated calls from Kyiv for heavy equipment needed to turn the tide in Russia’s invasion, German newspaper Der Spiegel claims, citing sources close to the German government.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, following fierce criticism and accusations of holding up the supply and export of German-made equipment, is expected to announce that Germany will send at least 14 Leopard 2 tanks.
Scholz announced the move in a statement on Wednesday, insisting the move "follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability" and added that Germany was "acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally." The German Chancellor is expected to address the Bundestag at 13:00.
Likewise, US President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to send at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks. Britain has already announced that it will send numerous Challenger Two tanks to Ukraine.
German officials had reportedly refused to ship heavy equipment until the US committed to doing the same. Germany is reluctant to do away with its stock of the main battle tank.
Each unit of the older 2A6 variant, which is set to be exported, is worth roughly $5.74 million. Speaking with De Welt, the chairman of the Bundeswehr Association, André Wüstner, expressed concern that the donation of the tanks would be “bad for the operational readiness of the Bundeswehr.”
Poland, which possesses a stockpile of the German-made Leopard 2 tank, has been pushing Germany to issue export licences for the tank, which would allow German equipment to end up on the battlefield in Ukraine. This export licence is expected to be granted by Chancellor Schultz today, swelling the number of Leopards destined for Ukraine.
Turning the tide of the war
While Ukraine has previously said that it requires 300 tanks to win the war against Russia, the country’s Western allies are now set to donate roughly 100. In terms of performance, modern Western tanks outclass the Soviet-era T-72 in most fields.
The Kremlin has already reacted angrily to the announcement. Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, said early on Wednesday that “Washington is purposefully trying to inflict a strategic defeat on us.” A Kremlin spokesperson added that the decision would “bring nothing good” and leave a “lasting mark” on relations with Russia.
Before the foreign tanks can enter into service on the battlefield, Ukrainian tank crews must be trained on how to use the costly tanks. Washington has previously warned of the extensive maintenance needed to operate the M1 Abrams.
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Ukraine plans to use the heavy equipment to smash through areas of growing Russian resistance. Russia has mobilised thousands of mercenaries and conscripts in a last-ditch attempt to seize the strategic eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
In January, Russia captured the strategic city of Soledar, putting pressure on Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut. A group of 11 European states pledged additional support on 19 January to provide Ukraine with heavy weapons and ammunition.