Kiev has been urging both Washington and its EU allies in recent weeks for increasingly heavier weapons
The United States can offer: “NATO Compatible” tanks to the Ukrainian military to replace aging Soviet-era equipment, a senior Pentagon official said, as Kiev continues to push for a steady flow of Western weapons amid fierce fighting with Russian forces.
Speaking to reporters for an anonymous briefing on Monday, the defense staffer was asked whether the White House was considering heavy armor in future aid packages to Ukraine, noting that Ukrainian lawmakers recently visited the US capital to specifically push for tanks.
“Tanks are definitely on the table along with other areas,” the official said, noting that while Ukrainian troops are more familiar with “Soviet-Like Tanks,” the Pentagon recognizes “that there will be a day when they may want to switch and may need to move to NATO-compatible models.”
The official said it depends on how quickly Ukrainian troops can be trained to use and maintain the vehicles, while insisting on whether Western tanks could be included in upcoming arms deliveries, but added that the Joe Biden government “definitely open” to the idea.
The latest White House security package for Kiev was announced last week, worth about $600 million, marking Biden’s twenty-first draw of the presidential weapons for Ukraine. The aid included additional rounds for US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 36,000 artillery shells, 1,000 precision-guided munitions, a number of transport vehicles and small arms.
Washington steadily ramped up its arms deliveries throughout the war, eventually agreeing to provide more-launch missile systems like the HIMARS, as well as long-range artillery platforms, months into the conflict. However, the White House has so far refrained from sending some of the US military’s most advanced weapons, such as heavy armor or fighter jets, instead agreeing to facilitate the transfer of Soviet-era equipment from third countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic.
Although Biden has approved more than $15 billion in direct military aid to Ukraine since Russia sent troops to the country in late February, Ukrainian officials continue to push for heavier weapons. In addition to US armor, Kiev has also been requesting Leopard battle tanks, Marder infantry fighting vehicles and Gepard anti-aircraft tanks from Germany in recent weeks, but Berlin has been reluctant to meet those demands.
“No country has so far supplied western-built infantry fighting vehicles or main battle tanks,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said at an event last week, adding: “We have agreed with our partners that Germany will not take such measures unilaterally.”
The US defense official did not specify what kind of tanks the Pentagon was considering for Ukraine, referring only to: “NATO Compatible Models.” The M1 Abrams is currently Washington’s main battle tank, with several configurations ready for export, according to the Drive.
READ MORE: US backs Ukraine ‘as long as necessary’ – Biden