The United States and Germany have pledged to send state-of-the-art battle tanks to Ukraine, paving the way for several of its European allies to follow suit.
The moves, announced by President Joe Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday, will see Washington deploy 31 Abrams tanks while Berlin will supply Kyiv with 14 German-made Leopard 2 units at first.
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It comes after the United Kingdom promised to deliver 14 of its own Challenger 2 tanks last week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has requested 300 tanks to help push back Russia’s invasion forces. Moscow said Western-supplied tanks will “burn” and dismissed suggestions they will impact the outcome of the nearly yearlong conflict.
Here’s what we know so far:
After days of mounting pressure from Ukrainian and Western officials, the German government on Wednesday overcame its apparent reluctance and announced it would supply Ukraine with the highly sought-after Leopard 2 battle tanks.
Scholz said Germany would initially send 14 units and also grant permission for other countries to re-export their stocks of the tanks – removing a major hurdle to additional military support from across Europe.
The government said its goal was for Germany and its allies to provide Ukraine with a total of two battalions, or 88 tanks overall.
The Leopards, fielded by some 20 armies around the world, are seen as the best option for Ukraine because they are readily available in large numbers and less complex mechanically than other alternatives, such as the M1 Abrams, allowing for quicker training for Ukrainian forces.
There are about 2,000 Leopard 2s currently spread across Europe at different levels of readiness, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British think-tank.
The UK has pledged to send 14 of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, as well as other advanced artillery support in the coming weeks.
The move to boost military support, announced earlier this month, will also see British forces train Ukrainian troops to use the tanks and artillery being supplied.
The Challenger 2 has been in service with the British army since 1994. It has been deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq, according to the army.
The US reversed its previous position and will send 31 of its M1 Abrams battle tank to Ukraine.
Biden described the US tanks on Wednesday as “the most capable” in the world, saying that they will help Ukraine defend its territorial integrity.
He acknowledged that delivering the tanks to Ukraine will “take time”, but he said Washington will use that time to ensure that Ukrainians are “fully prepared” to integrate the fighting vehicles into their defences.
The Abrams tank is considered less suitable for the conflict in Ukraine than the German-made Leopard 2 model because of its heavy fuel consumption and turbine engine, which is highly sophisticated and difficult to maintain.
Poland has said it is ready to send 14 of its own reserve of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
The Polish government said on Tuesday that it had formally requested Germany’s permission to do so in line with rules governing the re-export of German military equipment.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also said his government would ask the European Union for compensation for the cost of the units it wanted to send to Kyiv, calling the move a “test of goodwill”.
Finland’s defence minister said on Wednesday that his country planned to send Leopard 2s to Ukraine following Germany’s move to greenlight re-exports of the tanks.
“The international cooperation to send Leopards to Ukraine is advancing now and Finland will participate in that,” Mikko Savola told reporters.
It was not immediately clear how many tanks Finland, which shares a border with Russia, planned to supply Ukraine with. Savola said his country’s contribution would be limited in scope due to concerns over its own defences.
Norway will send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine as part of Western military aid.
“Norway and the government support the donation of battle tanks to Ukraine. Norway will take part,” Defence Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said in an interview with Norwegian public television NRK, without stating how many would be sent.
Spain’s defence minister said her country was open to providing Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks from its own stocks.
Margarita Robles told the EFE news agency that the government would act in coordination with other Western allies in helping Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.
She made no comment on the possible number of tanks Spain may provide.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands was prepared to deliver battle tanks to Ukraine if needed.
“If a contribution from the Netherlands helps, we are prepared to do so,” Rutte told Dutch broadcaster RTL.
Rutte said the Netherlands could opt to buy tanks it currently leases from Germany, and supply those to Ukraine.