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US said ‘leaning toward’ supplying Ukraine with Abrams tanks

Wall Street Journal quotes officials saying delivery could be announced this week as part of agreement that will see Germany send Leopard 2s

Illustrative: A member of the US Army's 1st Armored Battalion of the 9th Regiment, 1st Division from Fort Hood in Texas walks near Abrams battle tanks after arriving at the Pabrade railway station some 50 km (31 miles) north of the capital Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
Illustrative: A member of the US Army's 1st Armored Battalion of the 9th Regiment, 1st Division from Fort Hood in Texas walks near Abrams battle tanks after arriving at the Pabrade railway station some 50 km (31 miles) north of the capital Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

The United States “is leaning toward” supplying Ukraine with Abrams M1 tanks as part of an understanding to allow German-made tanks to be provided to Kyiv, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Citing unnamed US officials, the report said the shipments, which could be announced this week, will include a significant number of tanks.

According to the report, the announcement would be part of an agreement with Germany that would see Berlin ship a small number of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and also give the green light for other nations that possess Leopard 2s to do so.

The White House declined to comment on the report.

The move would mark a shift for the Biden administration, which has argued that the provision of Abrams tanks to Ukraine is not feasible, citing difficulties in training and maintenance.

Allies and military analysts say the Leopard 2 is diesel-powered — not driven by jet fuel as the Abrams tanks are — and is easier to operate than the big US tanks, and thus has shorter training times.

Last week, the US announced a massive new package of arms and munitions for Ukraine that includes 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers and an additional 59 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, but not the Western battle tanks requested by Kyiv.

Tuesday’s report came as Germany said it would decide “shortly” whether to authorize the export of Leopard tanks and encouraged allies to start training Ukrainian forces to use them.

Illustrative: A Leopard 2 tank during a demonstration by the German military near Hannover, Germany, September 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file)

Berlin stopped short of granting permission for the transfer but underscored that a decision was imminent, provoking a defiant response from the Kremlin.

Poland also upped the ante by putting forward a formal application for the delivery of the German-made tanks from its stocks to Ukraine.

Ukraine and several of its allies have been urging Germany for weeks to allow the delivery of the Leopards, but a US-led meeting of Kyiv’s allies in Germany last week failed to yield a decision.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius indicated on Tuesday that the moment of truth could be imminent, saying he had “expressly encouraged partner countries that have Leopard tanks that are ready for deployment to train Ukrainian forces on these tanks.”

“I expect a decision to be made shortly,” he added following talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin.

Stoltenberg welcomed the “clear message” from the minister because it “will take some time” to ready the tanks and train Ukrainian soldiers to use them after a decision on their delivery.

“We must provide heavier and more advanced systems to Ukraine, and we must do it faster,” Stoltenberg said, adding that he expected a decision by Berlin “soon.”

Moscow shows no signs of changing course in its invasion, Stoltenberg added, noting that Russia has mobilized more than 200,000 troops and is acquiring new weapons from countries like North Korea or Iran.

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