The United States could be on the verge of agreeing to send Ukraine a small number of Abrams main battle tanks to support its fight for freedom against Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime, The Wall Street Journal reported today.
“The announcement would be part of a broader diplomatic understanding with Germany in which Berlin would agree to send a smaller number of its own Leopard 2 tanks and would also approve the delivery of more of the German-made tanks by Poland and other nations,” the Journal reported.
“It would settle a trans-Atlantic disagreement over the tanks that had threatened to open fissures as the war drags into the end of its first year.”
The United Kingdom has tried to encourage both Germany and the United States to make their best armor available to Ukraine by offering up some Challenger 2 main battle tanks. Those exist only in the hundreds, whereas there are thousands of U.S. and German-made main battle tanks in the world.
“The White House is expected to announce a decision as early as Wednesday,” The New York Times reported. “Two officials said the number of Abrams tanks could be about 30.” That might not sound like much, but it’s the key to unlocking Ukraine’s access to a much larger number of Leopards already on the continent.
The Leopard 2 is Germany’s prized main battle tank, and Ukraine would very much like to add Leopards to its army. However, Germany has been reluctant to send its own Leopards to Ukraine or sign off on re-export licenses requested by other countries (like Poland) unless the United States made a similar move with the Abrams. U.S. officials have been trying to get Germany’s government to change its stance without changing their own, but have made little progress.
The Pentagon has publicly argued that sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons, such as their need for jet fuel in their default configuration (they can run on other fuels, however) and their high maintenance requirements (which seems like another solvable problem).
Americans unfamiliar with U.S. foreign policy may not be aware that the export version of the Abrams is already in the service of a number of foreign armies, including those of Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Iraq.
Exporting the Abrams to Ukraine would therefore hardly be unprecedented.
The Biden administration has been warming to the idea as a way to resolve the impasse over giving Ukraine heavier weaponry. German officials have said they would be okay giving Ukraine the Leopards before the Abrams could be ready for deployment, which would be very helpful to Ukraine’s armed forces.
The Pentagon no doubt still has reservations. But it is time to figure out how to get to “yes” instead of digging in and continuing to say “no.” The Abrams was designed primarily for a land conflict against the old Soviet Union. To continue to withhold it from an ally in need now, when the Kremlin is trying to crush its neighbor with democratic aspirations through force of arms, doesn’t make sense.
The U.S. has already agreed to provide Strykers and Bradleys to Ukraine. The Abrams is the final frontier with respect to what the U.S. can offer in terms of armored vehicles. U.S. provided HIMARS systems have been used with incredible effectiveness by Ukrainian troops, deeply angering the Kremlin.
Russian military brass have grumbled publicly about NATO’s role in arming Ukraine, with chief of staff General Valery Gerasimov saying that Russia is now facing the “collective West” in the conflict. Of course, Russia could end its brutal invasion today and not have to face the “collective West” anymore simply by withdrawing from Ukraine, but it shamefully refuses to do so.
Putin’s regime has willfully violated Russia’s previous commitments and agreements with respect to Ukraine, so unfortunately, negotiating with the Kremlin is pointless and won’t yield the peace we’d all like to see in Europe.
NPI strongly supports giving Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
We can, without committing our own troops, ensure that Ukrainian forces are competitive in this conflict despite being outnumbered. American and NATO weaponry is superior to what the Russians can field and are fielding, and it’s within our power to arm Ukraine so it can properly defend itself.
Every progressive who loves peace should want this conflict to come to an end as soon as possible. Countless lives are at stake, along with the future of a country that yearns to be free and prosperous rather than oppressed and poor.
As Representative Larry Seaquist explained last year, the quickest route to peace in Europe is the defeat of the Russian military, so that is the position that progressive leaders and activists should be committed to.