The U.S. and Germany are believed to be on the cusp of agreeing to deliver modern battle tanks to Ukraine after months of indecision and debate over the issue.
Reports late Tuesday suggested that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was ready to agree to sending a number of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and to allow allies to do the same with their own German-made tanks. In the United States, three senior U.S. officials told NBC News Tuesday that the Biden administration is preparing to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
Germany was reportedly reluctant to send its own tanks unless the U.S. did the same, and a defense summit in Germany last Friday had failed to reach an agreement over tanks, so the U-turn expected Wednesday would signal an unified position has been reached.
Ukraine has requested modern tanks from its allies for months but only the U.K. has so far responded, pledging to send 14 of Challenger 2 tanks.
Just how many tanks Ukraine could receive from the U.S., Germany and others will be the big issue now. Kyiv has said a number of times that it needs hundreds of tanks to fight Russia, particularly ahead of expected spring offensives.
Zelenskyy said Tuesday that a decision on tanks is needed as Russia is preparing “for a new wave of aggression – with the forces it can mobilize.”
Russia is ‘preparing for a new wave of aggression,’ Zelenskyy says
Russia is preparing for new offensives in Ukraine, with increased activity already seen in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday.
“Russia is preparing for a new wave of aggression – with the forces it can mobilize,” Zelenskyy warned in his nightly address.
“Now the occupiers are already increasing the pressure around Bakhmut and Vuhledar and other directions. And they want to increase the pressure on a larger scale,” Zelenskyy said, adding that Russia wants to “throw more of their people and equipment into combat operations.”
There has been intense fighting around Bakhmut in Donetsk for months. Capturing the town is a strategic goal for Russian forces wanting to seize the entire Donetsk region and neighboring Luhansk, which together make up the Donbas. Russian forces have claimed several tactical advances in Donetsk in recent weeks, including the capture of Soledar.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine says it needs a decision on tanks
After more indecision from Ukraine’s allies regarding the delivery of tanks to Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that allies need to decide on whether they will deliver modern battle tanks to Ukraine.
“There is a lot of talk about tanks. About the modern tanks that we need. And about how this deficit can be filled. A lot of efforts, words, promises,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Tuesday.
“But it is important to see the reality: it is not about five, or ten, or fifteen tanks. The need is greater. We are doing what is necessary every day to fill the deficit … However, discussions must be concluded with decisions. Decisions on real strengthening of our defense against terrorists,” as Ukraine labels Russia’s leadership.
“Allies have the required number of tanks. When the weight of decisions is necessary, we will be happy to thank you for each weighty decision,” he said.
Germany’s defense minister said Tuesday morning that the country’s position had not changed regarding the sending of German-made tanks to Ukraine, but by the evening there were reports suggesting a U-turn in Berlin, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday. In the U.S. too, reports suggested Washington was also ready to send M1 Abrams tanks.
Whether the number of tanks that are provided is enough is another matter, however. Ukraine previously said it needs hundreds of tanks to stave off Russia’s ongoing invasion “not 10-20,” as one presidential advisor said earlier this week.
— Holly Ellyatt
Biden administration preparing to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, officials tell NBC News
The Biden administration is preparing to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, three senior U.S. officials tell NBC News.
The decision to equip Kyiv with the weapons platform could come as early as Wednesday, the officials said, adding that the exact number of tanks in the administration’s latest security package was still under deliberation.
What’s more, the mighty M1A1 tanks will not be available to the Ukrainians for several months due to the colossal logistics and training requirements.
Read the full story from NBC News here.
— Amanda Macias
U.S. reiterates support for Finland, Sweden joining NATO
The Biden administration reiterated its support for both Finland and Sweden joining NATO at the earliest opportunity, after Helsinki said a pause was needed in trilateral talks with Turkey on the Nordic countries’ application to join the military alliance.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price was repeatedly asked at a news briefing whether Washington would support Finland’s possible accession without Sweden, but declined to comment on what he called a “hypothetical” and not a “live question right now.”
“This has always been a discussion about Finland and Sweden… (about) moving from an alliance of 28 to an alliance of 30. That’s what we want to see happen,” Price said, adding that Finland joining NATO separately “is just a question that we’re not entertaining.”
Turkey’s president said Sweden should not expect his country’s support after a protest near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm at the weekend, which included the burning of a copy of the Koran.
Replacing weapons NATO allies sent to Ukraine could yield $21.7 billion in U.S. defense sales
Replacing weapons and other equipment NATO countries sent to Ukraine could lead to nearly $22 billion in sales for the U.S. defense industry, according to a report from the think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power also said that restoring the NATO allies’ arsenals could also lower the Pentagon’s cost of obtaining weapons.
“It would also enhance the quality of the weapons U.S. warfighters wield and strengthen U.S. defense industrial base capacity,” the authors of the report added.
— Amanda Macias