U.S. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2D Marine Division, advance on their eastern objective defended by opposing Spanish forces during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Dalholen, Norway, Nov. 3, 2018. Trident Juncture 18 enhances the U.S. and NATO Allies’ and partners’ abilities to work together collectively to conduct military operations under challenging conditions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa/Released)

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.

Leopard 2 main battle tank
A Ger­man-made Leop­ard 2 main bat­tle tank, seen at NATO Days 2022. NATO Days is the biggest secu­ri­ty show in Europe, tra­di­tion­al­ly held annu­al­ly at Ostra­va Leos Janacek Air­port. (Pho­to: Fric.Matej, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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