President Biden announced Wednesday that he plans to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing the administration’s longstanding resistance to requests from Kyiv for the highly sophisticated but maintenance-heavy vehicles.
Biden said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recommended this move because it will strengthen Ukraine's capacity to "defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives."
"The Abrams tanks are the most capable tanks in the world. They're also extremely complex to operate and maintain, so we're also giving Ukraine the parts and equipment necessary to effectively sustain these tanks on the battlefield. We'll begin to train the Ukrainian troops on these issues of sustainment, logistics and maintenance as soon as possible," Biden said in remarks from the White House.
The Abrams will take months to arrive, senior administration officials said, and will require extensive training for Ukrainian troops on how to operate and service them. The US must navigate complicated supply chains for the components required for the tanks.
"Delivering these tanks to the field is going to take time. Time that we'll see and we'll use to make sure the Ukrainians are fully prepared to integrate the Abrams tanks into their defenses," Biden added.
As recently as last week, top US officials cited those obstacles as barriers to providing the vehicles to Ukraine. Yet after an intensive bout of diplomacy with Germany, who had made clear it would only send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if the United States offered up the Abrams, Biden has given the sign-off on sending the vehicles. The 31 Abrams will form a complete Ukrainian tank battalion.
“This is a tremendous new capability that Ukraine will be getting to boost its long term defenses," a senior administration official said, noting that the tanks will be procured through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding.