In return, the US is preparing to approve Abrams tanks for Ukraine

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WASHINGTON (AP) — In a reversal, the Biden administration is poised to authorize sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, U.S. officials said Tuesday, amid international reluctance to send tanks to the front lines against the Russians, it starts to erode. The decision could be announced as early as Wednesday, although it could be months or years before the tanks are delivered.

American officials said the details were still being worked out. An official said the tanks will be purchased as part of an upcoming Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package that will provide long-term funding for the purchase of weapons and equipment from commercial suppliers.

The US announcement is expected to come in coordination with an announcement by Germany on Wednesday that it will grant Poland’s request to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, an official said. . Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as the decision has not yet been made public.

With the promise to send the Abrams as part of the aid initiative at an unspecified date, the administration can meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s request for an American commitment without having to send the tanks immediately.

It can take many months to several years for weapons provided through the Aid Initiative to reach the battlefield. Much of the aid sent so far in the 11-month-old war has been channeled through a separate program that uses Pentagon stockpiles to get weapons to Ukraine more quickly. But even under this program, it would take months to bring tanks to Ukraine and train the Ukrainian armed forces to use them.

It is not known how many tanks will be brought in.

So far, the United States has resisted providing Ukraine with its own M1 Abrams tanks, citing extensive and complex maintenance and logistical challenges for the high-tech vehicles. Washington believes it would be more productive to send German Leopards since many allies have them and Ukrainian troops would need less training than on the more difficult Abrams.

A US official familiar with the White House’s thinking said the administration’s initial hesitation stemmed from concerns about the training required and the preservation of the tanks. The official added that the administration believes such plans are in place now but may take time to implement.

In the Pentagon, spokesman Brig. The Gen. Pat Ryder said he had nothing to announce about a US decision on the Abrams tanks. But he said, “Every time we’ve given some kind of system to Ukraine, we’ve provided the training and the conservation capabilities with it.”

The reversal of the government came just days after a coalition of more than 50 senior defense officials from Europe and beyond met in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s wartime needs, and t -main battle tanks were a major issue.

Ukrainian leaders urgently requested tanks, but Germany had resisted mounting pressure to either supply its own tanks or allow other countries, such as Poland, to ship German-made tanks from their own stocks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the use of Western tanks would have “clearly negative” consequences.

Defense leaders from countries that have Leopard 2 tanks met with the Germans during Friday’s conference at Ramstein Air Base to reach an agreement.

On Sunday, Berlin indicated that it will not hinder other countries that want to send Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev. Germany must agree to hand over the tanks to Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO.

American and German officials gave mixed signals about whether the US and German decisions were related and whether Berlin was reluctant to send its tanks unless the US sent Abrams.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on Tuesday that Poland had officially asked Germany for permission to transfer its Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

German officials confirmed they had received the application to the dpa news agency and said it was being reviewed “with due urgency”. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Sunday that Berlin will not try to prevent Poland from delivering high-tech weaponry to Kyiv.

Lawmakers in Congress also urged the United States to increase its aid to Ukraine.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday “it’s time” for the Biden administration and its allies to send more military aid to Ukraine, and that the United States needs to provide more tanks and weapons to help Ukraine “win this war”.

“It’s time for the Biden administration and our allies to get serious about helping Ukraine finish the job and take back their country.”

The probable plans to send the Abrams were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

____ Associated Press contributors Tara Copp, Kevin Freking, and Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.

Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Lee, The Associated Press

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