The Biden administration is stuck in a standoff with Germany over whether to send tanks to Ukraine ahead of a key meeting of western defense leaders in Germany on Friday.
In recent days, German officials have indicated they won’t send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine, or allow any other country with the German-made tanks in their inventory to do so, unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv — something the Pentagon has said for months it has no intention of doing.
The tank standoff comes amid a much larger debate between the US and its European allies over whether to send increasingly sophisticated weaponry to Ukraine, including longer-range missiles that would allow Ukraine to hit targets as far as 200 miles away.
The United Kingdom, Poland, Finland and the Baltic states have all been pushing for NATO members to provide heavier equipment to Kyiv amid what they believe is a key inflection point in the war. Both Ukraine and Russia appear to be gearing up for new offensives and there are signs Moscow could be preparing an additional troop mobilization.
A western official explained that for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the tanks question “is a red, red, red line. German tanks [fighting] Russia again. Moral issue. Understandable, from the historical viewpoint. Still, speaking of moral burden, I wish Germans were nowadays more sympathetic with Poland. Let alone with Ukraine. Didn’t German tanks kill Ukrainians 80 years ago as well? Now they can defend them from Russian barbaric aggression.”
Pressure building in Berlin: Ahead of a meeting on Thursday in Berlin between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his German counterpart, a senior US defense official said that the US is “very optimistic that we will make progress” on the tanks question.
But not everyone in the US government shares that optimism. A number of senior administration officials privately expressed frustration with German officials for making what the US believes is a false equivalency between the US and German tanks.
This all comes as the US announced a new $2.5 billion Ukraine security package on Thursday, including for the first time Stryker combat vehicles and more armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles, the Biden administration said.
The package does not include M1 Abrams tanks, and it is unlikely the US is going to provide them anytime soon because they are difficult and expensive to supply and maintain, US officials said.
Read more about the tension between the US and Germany here.