Why the US refused to send tanks to Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — For months, US officials hesitated to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, claiming they were too complex and too difficult to maintain and repair.

on Wednesday, that suddenly changedUkraine’s desperate plea for tanks was answered with a drastic one. transatlantic yes.

The dramatic reversal was the culmination of intense international pressure and diplomatic arm twists that have unfolded over the past week. The US said it would send 31 of his 70-ton Abrams tanks to Ukraine, and Germany said it would send 14 of her Leopard 2 tanks, allowing other countries to do the same.

See the giant combat weapon, why it’s important to Ukraine’s war with Russia, and what caused the Biden administration’s tank overthrow.

What is Abrams?

The M1 Abrams tank has led America’s combat assaults for decades.

With a crew of four, Abrams first saw service in 1991. It has thick armor, a 120 mm gun, armor-piercing capabilities, an advanced targeting system, thick tracked wheels, and a turbine engine with a top speed of 1,500 hp. Approximately 42 miles per hour (68 kilometers per hour).

A crew member interviewed in a 1992 Government Accountability Office review after the Gulf War praised its high survivability, stating that “several M1A1 crews were able to minimize frontal attacks from Iraqi T-72s. He reported that he suffered injuries from

More recently, Battle Titans led the charge into Baghdad during the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, as troops from the 3rd Infantry Division conducted what they called a “thunder run” to break through Iraqi defenses. .

The Abrams’ powerful jet engine can propel the tank over nearly any terrain, whether it’s heavy snow or mud, said Kevin Butler, a former Army Lt. Kevin Butler who served as an Abrams tank platoon leader. Butler recalled doing muddy exercises in the late 1990s at Fort He Stewart, Georgia. There he expressed his concern that the tank would get stuck because the Humvee was already stuck.

The Abrams family “didn’t notice” the mud, he said.

Why the U.S. Kept Saying No

Abrams jet engines require hundreds of gallons of fuel to operate.

Butler says it burns fuel at a rate of at least 2 gallons per mile (4.7 liters per kilometer) whether the tank is moving or idling. We are moving forward.

The U.S. was concerned that fuel demand would create a logistical nightmare for the Ukrainian military. Abrams can sprint through snow and mud, but fuel trucks can’t. Plus, like any jet engine, the Abrams turbine needs air to breathe, drawing it in through filtered rear vents. As a soldier reported to his GAO in 1992, when the ventilation filters become clogged with sand or any debris you might encounter in Ukraine, they stop working.

“The Abrams tank is a very complex piece of equipment. It’s expensive and hard to train….It’s not the easiest system to maintain. Colin Carl told reporters at the Pentagon last week.

Abrams also needs months of training. The Ukrainian military must learn how to operate more complex systems and how to keep them running and fueled.

A turnabout that twists the arm

In spite of all the shortcomings that the United States has expressed, it all came down to political realities and diplomatic dances.

Germany was reluctant to send the Leopards, or allow its allies to send them, unless the United States put Abrams on the table, out of concern that the supply of tanks would provoke the ire of Russia. The U.S. argued that German-made Leopards would be a better choice because the Ukrainian military could obtain and train Leopards much more quickly and easily.

This impasse frustrated European allies such as Poland. They tried to send a leopard, but they could not send it without Germany’s consent. Thus began more intense negotiations.

Both U.S. and German officials used the word “intensive” to describe the talks that ultimately led to the reorientation of tanks in the two countries.

“This is the result of intensive consultations with our allies and international partners,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a speech to German parliamentarians on Wednesday.

Echoing Scholz, a senior U.S. government official, said the talks had been going on for some time, but “intensified in the last few weeks.” Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, provided details of the decision.

A phone call was made by President Joe Biden, including Mr. Scholz. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley spoke and met with their German counterparts and other allies.

Last Friday, the pressure was palpable. Top defense leaders from over 50 countries They met at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s ongoing weapons and equipment needs. Tanks were a major subject. The leaders of the country that owns the Leopard tank have met with the new German Defense Minister.

Gradually, Germany’s stance officially began to soften, leading to Wednesday’s announcement. When repeatedly asked what changed, Biden administration officials dodged. Asked directly about German pressure, Biden told reporters, “Germany didn’t force me to change my mind.”

How long will it take

The timing of both the delivery of tanks to Ukraine and the training of the Ukrainian army is ambiguous. U.S. officials will only say that delivery of the Abrams tank will take “many months,” but the Leopard will arrive sooner.

Army Assistant Secretary of Acquisition Doug Bush said the United States is no longer buying new Abrams, but is using the old ones as “seed vehicles” and retrofitting them. But doing that won’t be quick or easy, he said.

Training could start more quickly, and the Department of Defense is developing a program.

“We want them (tanks) to be readily available, that the Ukrainians know how to use them, that they know how to keep them running, and that they have spare parts And we want to make sure we have a supply chain in place for supplies,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Bush said Ukrainians have shown they have the knowledge and ability to quickly master the new system.

“We often shorten or accelerate what we can do in terms of training soldiers in the Ukrainian army,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “With enough motivation and dedicated access to them 24/7, we can train people very quickly,” he said. increase.


Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.