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Despite Ukraine’s pleas, Germany hasn’t decided on sending in-demand battle tanks HP NEWS

WASHINGTON – Billions in new military aid will bolster Ukrainian forces as they ready for a spring offensive, but defense leaders meeting in Germany failed to reach an agreement on sending more modern tanks to the war-torn country, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday.

Providing Ukraine with modern, western tanks has been a sticking point among allies. The United States has not agreed to Ukraine’s request for U.S. Abrams tanks, citing its need for maintenance and jet fuel. Western allies support sending German-made Leopard tanks, which run on diesel fuel. However, Germany has not agreed to send Leopards, or to permit allies like Poland who operate them, to send the tanks to Ukraine.

Germany has not yet made a decision on sending Leopard tanks, Austin said. Austin declined to say if he was disappointed by Germany not sending the tanks but described the country as a “reliable ally,” noting it has provided air defense systems and armored personnel carriers.

Ukrainian forces need armored vehicles, especially tanks, to dislodge dug-in Russian forces in the eastern part of the country. They have relied on Russian and Soviet-era tanks but want modern, western tanks with superior maneuverability, fire power and protection. The need is critical now so that they can train on the equipment before an expected counteroffensive in the spring.

Austin, and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke after a meeting of the U.S.-led coalition of more than 50 countries supporting Ukraine known as the Ukraine Defense Contract Group. The meeting of allies supporting Ukraine follows the announcement Thursday of a new, $2.5 billion military aid package from the Pentagon. It includes armored vehicles, air defense systems and ammunition.

The package is “designed to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield requirements,” Austin said.

For the first time, the Ukrainians will receive 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers. In addition, the Pentagon is sending 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Ukrainian forces will train on the troop carriers in Germany before deploying them into combat in eastern Ukraine. The package also includes anti-aircraft systems to defend Ukraine against an onslaught of missiles and drones fired by Russia at Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, especially its electrical grid.

Armored vehicles, including tanks, are seen as vital to spearheading a Ukrainian counteroffensive. The United Kingdom has committed to providing some Challenger 2 tanks, the first western main battle tanks for Ukraine, Austin said.

U.S. and western allies have shed some of their resistance to providing advanced weaponry to Ukraine since the Russian invasion last year. Fears that Russia would retaliate by striking a NATO country or resort to tactical nuclear weapons have not been realized.

The aid package also includes more than 100,000 artillery shells. Ukrainian and Russian forces have been engaged in a savage artillery duel in eastern Ukraine, lobbing thousands of shells daily at each other.

The battle line in Ukraine stretches the same distance from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, Milley said. Russian casualties are “significantly well over 100,000,” he said.

“This is a very, very bloody war,” Milley said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine won’t get German Leopard tanks



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