WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Germany has pledged to provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks, while the U.S. has pledged Abrams tanks.
- The move aims to help Ukraine with its long-term defense against Russia.
- Russia condemned the move as an “extremely dangerous decision” that escalates the conflict.
Ukraine is due to receive dozens of battle tanks from Germany and the United States, prompting Russia to condemn the decision as “extremely dangerous.”
During his nightly video address on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the nations’ pledges. He stated, “The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. The numbers in tank support. We have to form such a ‘tank fist’, such a ‘fist of freedom’.”
Ukraine has long been requesting modern tanks to replenish its fleet as it fights to reclaim Russian-occupied territory in the south and east. Both sides have been mainly depending on much older, Soviet-era T-72 tanks.
Officials are expecting new war offensives from both sides amid intense fighting in Bakhmut in Ukraine’s east.
Berlin announced that it would approve shipments and provide an initial company of 14 Leopard 2 tanks, which are mainly used by NATO armies across Europe. Hours later, U.S. President Joe Biden also announced his decision to provide 31 M1 Abrams tanks.
Both Germany and the U.S. were initially wary of providing tanks. The U.S. had hesitated on providing Abrams tanks due to their complex maintenance but decided to go ahead to persuade Germany to send its more easily operated Leopards.
Biden said that the tanks pose “no offensive threat” to Russia but added that the equipment will help Ukrainians’ long-term defense and “improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain.”
Poland, Finland, and Norway also pledged to provide Leopards, while Spain and the Netherlands are considering it. France is considering sending its Leclercs while Britain has offered 14 Challenger tanks.
Ukrainian military expert Viktor Kevlyuk told Espreso TV that such vehicles will make their “prospects look good.”
It will take months, however, before the tanks would be ready. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that Germany’s tanks could take three or four months.
Zelenskyy also called for long-range missiles and aircraft during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Ukraine has received billions in military support from Western allies.
Meanwhile, Russia continued its warnings of escalation in response to the new tank provisions to Ukraine.
Russia’s ambassador to Germany, Sergei Nechayev, stated, “This extremely dangerous decision takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year, cities have been reduced to rubble, thousands of people have been killed, and millions have been driven away from their homes.