Washington: President Joe Biden has announced that the US will send 31 state-of-the-art Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine to help its troops push back Russian forces that remain entrenched in the country's east for almost a year since Moscow's invasion.
President Biden’s announcement on Wednesday came after he held talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on aiding Ukraine.
“Today, I'm announcing that the United States will be sending 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has recommended this step because it will enhance Ukraine's capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives,” Biden said.
The Abrams tanks are the most capable tanks in the world, Biden said, adding that they are also extremely complex to operate and maintain.
The US will also provide training programme to maintain and operate these tanks, as well as eight M88 recovery vehicles to go along with the Abrams tanks.
“So, we are also giving Ukraine the parts and equipment necessary to effectively sustain these tanks on the battlefield. We will begin to train the Ukrainian troops on these issues of sustainment, logistics, and maintenance soon as possible,” he said.
Biden said the delivery of these tanks will "take time" that Washington will use to ensure "Ukrainians are fully prepared to integrate the Abram tanks into their defences.” “With spring approaching, Ukrainian forces are working to defend the territory they hold and preparing for additional counter offenses," he said.
“The American contribution will be joined by the additional announcement, including that will be readily available and more easily integrated for use in the battlefield in the coming weeks and months, from other countries,” he added.
Biden thanked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for providing German Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
“I want to thank the chancellor for his leadership and his steadfast commitment to our collective efforts to support Ukraine. The Chancellor has been a strong voice for unity, a close friend and for the level of efforts we're going to continue,” he said.
Both Leopard 2 and Abrams are state-of-the-art tanks and considered more superior than Soviet-era tanks fielded by the Russian forces.
The US decision came after Germany agreed to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks to Ukraine.
By getting Washington to commit its tanks in Ukraine, Berlin hopes to cushion the risk of a possible backlash from Moscow.