There are still several details to be clarified about Western countries sending tanks to Ukraine, starting with the timing. After weeks of hesitation, the governments of the United States and Germany announced on Wednesday they would send a total of 45 heavy tanks to support the Ukrainian army: 31 M1 Abrams tanks from the United States and 14 Leopard 2-type tanks from the Germany. They are more powerful combat vehicles than those Ukraine has and more suitable for resistance against the Russian invasion: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had been asking for them for months. But for them to get to the Ukrainian army will still take quite a long time.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said his government plans to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks by the end of March, while US President Joe Biden limited himself to saying that training the Ukrainian army to use of the M1 Abrams will start soon but that “it will take time” to send.
Biden did not specify how long it could actually take but, according to reports from some US government officials to journalists, it is estimated that it could take about a year. In fact, the 31 M1 Abrams will not be taken from those already in use by the United States Army, but built specifically for Ukraine, which will inevitably lengthen delivery times.
It is therefore practically certain that next spring Ukraine will not receive American tanks, but only German Leopard 2s. It is a very important detail above all because of how the war is expected to evolve in the coming months.
With the onset of winter, the Russian army had in fact thought mainly of maintaining the territories conquered up to then, without making new large movements, preferring to carry out missile attacks from a distance and withdraw into a defensive position in various areas (including that of the city of Kherson, from which he had retired in November). This with the aim of reorganizing better and attempting a new ground offensive in the spring, when the weather conditions will be more favorable for troop movements.
It is precisely in view of a probable Russian offensive in the spring that Zelensky in recent weeks had asked Germany with ever more insistence to make a rapid decision on sending Leopard 2s, which unlike the M1 Abrams will not be built from scratch, but taken from those already at the disposal of the German army.
The same will happen for the other European countries that have German-made Leopard 2 tanks and that needed German authorization to be able to send them to Ukraine: Poland had already asked Germany on Tuesday to be able to send 14 Leopard 2s to help to the Ukrainian army, and now that the situation has unblocked it is expected that new similar requests will also come from Spain, Portugal, Norway and Finland.
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