Biden approves sending 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine

The commitment will take some time but comes as Europe is pledging other tanks.

ABC NEWS—In a major increase of U.S. support to Ukraine, President Joe Biden has signed off on sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to the war-torn country as concerns mount over a new Russian offensive this spring, according to senior administration officials.

“The reason for 31 is because that is how many tanks would constitute a Ukrainian tank battalion,” a U.S. official told reporters in a conference call earlier Wednesday. “So we are specifically meeting that requirement.”

The president is set to speak at noon ET from White House’s Roosevelt Room on the “continued support for Ukraine,” as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has put out a direct appeal for more tanks with a harsh winter and the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaching.

The U.S. announcement about its tank commitment comes the same day Germany has also pledged to send Ukraine 14 of its own Leopard 2 tanks.

Political gymnastics have muddled Ukraine’s plea for more tanks as Russia prepares for a spring offensive, with Germany reportedly hesitant to send Leopard 2s until the U.S. promised to send Abrams tanks — vehicles which Pentagon officials have publicly said weren’t suited for the fight.

Biden administration officials had confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that they were considering sending the Abrams tanks to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. That means the U.S. will arrange for the contracting of the tanks with their manufacturer, which could mean the vehicles will not be able to be fielded for quite some time — possibly more than a year.

Early Wednesday, Germany confirmed it will supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks and approve requests by dozens of other countries to do the same. The U.K. has also committed 12 of its own Challenger 2 battle tanks, and Poland has asked Germany for permission to send the Leopards it has in stock.

Still, this falls far short of the 300 battle tanks that Zelenskyy has said he needs for the war.

U.S. officials argued that this new shipment of tanks highlights the unity among all allies working to support Ukraine, minimizing the disagreement between the U.S. and Germany on the usefulness of the Abrams vehicles.

Zelenskyy reacted to the tank comittments in a new SkyNews interview.

“I would like to say thank you to Germany, to Britain and to the United States that they made this decision,” he said.

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