US to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine: Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed that his country will send 31 advanced M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, as he highlighted cooperation with Europe and thanked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for agreeing to send Leopard tanks to Kyiv.

Biden called the Abrams tanks the “most capable in the world,” in a speech at the White House on Wednesday. He said the U.S. would provide Ukraine with parts and equipment, in addition to training.

The president praised German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s earlier announcement that 14 Leopard tanks would be delivered to Ukraine.

“Germany has really stepped up and the chancellor has been a strong voice for unity” among Ukraine’s allies, Biden said.

“The expectation on the part of Russia is we’re going to break up,” Biden said of the U.S. and European allies. “But we are fully, totally and thoroughly united.”

The United States had been cool to the idea of deploying the difficult-to-maintain Abrams tanks but had to change tack in order to persuade Germany to send its more easily used Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Still, the Abrams — among the most powerful U.S. tanks — will not be heading to Ukraine anytime soon.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the decision said it will take months, not weeks, for the Abrams to be delivered and described the move in terms of providing for Ukraine’s long-term defense.

Members of the Ukrainian military will be trained on using the Abrams in a yet-to-be determined location. While a highly sophisticated and expensive weapon, the Abrams is difficult to maintain and provides a logistical resupply challenge because it runs on jet fuel.

The total cost of a single Abrams tanks can vary, and can be over $10 million per tanks when including training and sustainment.

The decisions by Washington and Berlin come as the Western allies help Ukraine prepare for a possible spring counter-offensive to try to drive Russia out of territory it has seized.

“There is no offensive threat to Russia,” Biden said.

Biden speaks with Scholz before announcement

Biden and Scholz spoke in a telephone conversation on Wednesday that also involved French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Scholz’s spokesperson confirmed the call and it was mentioned during Biden’s announcement on Wednesday.

The five-way phone call focused on the security situation in Ukraine and continued support for the Ukrainian fight against Russian forces. All five heads of state and government agreed to continue military support for Ukraine and cooperate closely, it said.

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