US and German pledges to send advanced battle tanks to counter Russian aggression hailed as ‘only the beginning’ by senior Ukrainian official, who says hundreds of tanks needed , as Kyiv renewed its calls for fighter jets.
Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, made the comments as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed the move by Western allies, urging them to quickly provide large quantities of tanks.
“The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in delivering tanks to Ukraine. Tank support numbers,” he said in his nightly video address on Wednesday. .
Joe Biden has approved sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, after weeks of speculation. The U.S. reversal came after Germany confirmed it would make 14 of its Leopard 2A6 tanks available to Ukraine and give partner nations permission to re-export other tanks.
Berlin’s decision unlocks offers from Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland and Norway to supply Ukraine with their own German-made Leopards.
Zelenskiy celebrated the “very good news”, describing the US decision to send Abrams as a “very powerful step”. “There is a coalition of tanks. There is a decision to launch the supply of tanks for our defense. Modern tanks,” he said.
Western officials believe that the provision of 100 tanks could be enough to make the difference in terms of holding ground in the event of a Russian offensive in the spring and then a recapture of territory. The first batch of Leopard 2 tanks should arrive in three months.
Zelenskiy also said he had spoken with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and called for the provision of long-range missiles and aircraft to add to US and NATO commitments. Germany.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he also spoke to Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau about the fighter jets, a request that has been repeatedly made to NATO allies without success .
Yuriy Sak, who advises Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, said fighter jets would be “the next big hurdle”. “If we get them, the benefits on the battlefield will be just immense,” he said. “It’s not just the F-16s. Fourth generation planes, that’s what we want.
Previous calls for US-made jets were unsuccessful, but the Dutch government recently said it would consider transferring some of its 50 planes in coordination with allies. Ukraine has so far only received Soviet-era aircraft and spare parts for its air force.
In public statements, Washington and Berlin had denied any connection between their respective decisions on whether to send tanks, although media outlets said German officials had made it clear privately that the Leopards were conditioned on the United States United make a similar commitment.
Berlin’s hesitant position on the issue of battle tanks had caused concern among its Western allies and perplexity in Germany in recent days. Critics of Scholz’s own governing coalition accused his chancellery of being crippled by internal party strife.
Scholz said in a statement: “This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability. We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally.
Russia has denounced the US and German moves as “a rather disastrous plan”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “The bottom line is that this is a completely obvious overstatement of the potential [this] would add to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This is yet another mistake, quite profound.
Others reacted with more fury; Sergei Nechayev, Moscow’s ambassador to Germany, said: “This extremely dangerous decision brings the conflict to a new level of confrontation.
Announcing the dispatch of 31 Abrams tanks, Biden said, “There is no offensive threat against Russia.”
“Putin expected Europe and the United States to weaken our resolve,” the president said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “He expected our support for Ukraine to crumble over time. He was wrong… These tanks are further proof of our enduring and unwavering commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skills of the Ukrainian forces.