According to unnamed sources familiar with the situation, the United States is finalizing it’s plans to send the iconic M1 Abrams main battle tank to Ukraine. Originally, the United States was not keen on sending tanks to Ukraine but according to the sources, an official announcement is expected as soon as this week.
With major issues being attached to this plan, such as how long training would take on the Abrams and how Ukraine will be able to maintain such a complicated piece of frontline equipment, many speculate this announcement could be an attempt to strong arm Germany into sending its Leopard IIs which it has been resistant to allow without the U.S. agreeing to send it’s own tanks. Already Poland and several other nations have agreed to send their export versions of the Leopard II main battle tank but seeing as Germany holds the original contract rights, they have been unable to without permission.
NATO defense officials met in Germany last Friday to persuade the Germans to provide the approval for Leopard II deployments to Ukraine. Though the talks were unsuccessful, the German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius seemed to soften on the topic, saying “We are preparing our decision which will come very soon.”
However, officials have noted it could take months to years before the Abrams is ready for use in Ukraine and Ukrainian soldiers are properly trained. It is also not clear how many tanks would be approved or which version of the Abrams will be sent.
The tanks are said to be apart of a new package of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, to provide longer range funding for equipment to be purchased from commercial vendors. This program is to help establish long term military support for the Ukrainians to buy and maintain their own gear, as opposed to the immediate assistance previously given from the stockpiles of nation’s armories. The Abrams is seemingly apart of this package, as U.S. officials do not believe the Abram’s complexity to be able to be an immediate solution to Ukraine’s defense, even as critics site the possibility of a major upcoming Russian offensive during the spring. Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky has said himself that the nation needs modern tanks to handle this potential Russian attack.
It is also expected that Germany will announce it’s approval of Poland sending their Leopard II tanks to Ukraine sometime this week, coinciding with the American announcement. In addition, the United Kingdom has promised 12 of it’s formidable Challenger II tanks to Ukraine. It should also be noted that the Abrams tanks may not come from the United States itself, but potentially from an allied country such as Poland, who recently purchased the M1a2 SEPv3, the latest Abrams upgrade, to refurbish it’s aging tank fleet.
Modern Western tanks, especially the Abrams, have already proved their metal against Russian made T-72s during the wars in Iraq. Though Russian T-72s have been highly upgraded compared to the Iraqi versions, the Abrams, Leopard, and Challenger still outclass most Russian armor, with the exception of possibly the T-90. However, as seen by the Saudi war in Yemen, these modern tanks are still very susceptible to Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, such as the Russian Kornet and Metis systems used in Ukraine. For many experts, these NATO tanks being deployed to frontline use in Ukraine is an important test to see how they will fare against the formidable foe they were originally created to go head to head with.