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The United States and NATO have not agreed to give Ukraine main battle tanks

People demonstrated in Berlin, Germany, holding placards reading "Release the Leopard" and "Don't give the Panther now, there will be a third world war in the future", calling for Germany's approval to supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine. (20 January 2023)
People demonstrated in Berlin, Germany, holding placards reading “Release the Leopard” and “Don’t give the Panther now, there will be a third world war in the future”, calling for Germany’s approval to supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine. (20 January 2023)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark A. Milley said at a news conference at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany, that Germany will not supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 main battle tanks at this moment. Prior to this press conference, many countries held a coordination meeting on assistance to Ukraine.

As the international congress comes as Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine enters its 11th month, Kiev has expressed chagrin at allies over differences over the supply of main battle tanks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a direct appeal at the meeting for tanks.

Late Friday, Zelensky said in a nightly speech that Ukraine must fight for access to modern heavy armored equipment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke via video to a meeting of the Ukrainian Contact Group at the Ramstein airbase in Germany. American servicemen standing by the screen. (20 January 2023)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke via video to a meeting of the Ukrainian Contact Group at the Ramstein airbase in Germany. American servicemen standing by the screen. (20 January 2023)

“Every day we make it clearer that when it comes to decisions about tanks, there is no alternative,” he said. ”

Zelensky thanked the United States and European allies for the supply of weapons to Canada and stressed the importance of prompt delivery. “The only thing worth highlighting is the time, the delivery time,” he said. “Every agreement must be implemented as quickly as possible.”

Offering armored fighting vehicles but no Western main battle tanks

At Ramstein’s press conference, Austin and Milley discussed the latest major U.S. assistance package to Ukraine, including 59 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers.

The new U.S. military aid is worth $2.5 billion, bringing the total U.S. military aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion nearly a year ago to nearly $27 billion.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Milley held a press conference after an international conference on aid to Ukraine at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. (20 January 2023)
U.S. Defense Secretary Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Milley held a press conference after an international conference on aid to Ukraine at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. (20 January 2023)

Austin denied that Germany’s supply of German-made Leopard 2 MBTs was linked to the U.S.’s failure to commit to supplying American-made Abrams MBTs. He downplayed the urgency of the tank, instead stressing that the Stryker and Bradley vehicles gave the Ukrainian army new combat capabilities.

“We’re really focused on making sure Ukraine has the capabilities it needs to succeed at this moment,” he said. So we have a window of opportunity here – between the present and the spring… No matter when they start their combat operations, their counter-offensive. ”

Profile photo: servicemen and Stryker tanks of the US Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Fairsek, Germany. (9 February 2022)
Profile photo: servicemen and Stryker tanks of the US Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Fairsek, Germany. (9 February 2022)

The U.S. aid includes three types of missiles, tens of thousands of artillery and mortar shells, more HIMARS ammunition, and eight Avenger air defense systems. The United States has announced that it will supply Ukraine with a Patriot missile system, while the Netherlands will also provide two Patriot launchers and missiles, according to the Dutch news agency (ANP).

Austin reaffirmed the allies’ commitment to defending Ukraine.

“It’s not just about Ukraine’s security, it’s about European security and global security,” he said. He expressed confidence that the Contact Group for Ukraine would remain united and continue to consolidate the momentum.

Is Germany a reliable ally?

Asked if Germany was a reliable ally, Austin replied: “They are reliable allies, they have been for a long, long time, and I really believe they will continue to be reliable allies in the future.”

Milley echoed Austin’s, noting that it was the most united moment he had seen in his 40-year military career. He said the U.S. aid program, combined with contributions from other countries that came together, showed their determination to defend Ukraine.

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“In order to preserve the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Ukraine, no matter how much and for how long,” he said.

However, Milley noted: “It is challenging to provide all this equipment and training to the Ukrainian army simultaneously during the short window period before spring; It’s also about matching equipment to people and developing a coherent plan.

He also said that it will be difficult for Ukraine to drive the invading Russian army out of Ukrainian territory this year. He stressed the importance of consolidating the defensive front of the Ukrainian army.

Defense ministers from about 50 countries, including all NATO members, met in Ramstein to discuss further assistance to Ukraine. This is the eighth summit in Ramstein since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year.

On tanks, Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, signaled that the issue was moving forward little by little. Speaking to the media outside the Ramstein conference hall at noon, he said: “We will make our decision as soon as possible. ”

Profile photo: German Chancellor Scholz speaks at a German army base in Bergen with a Leopard 2 main battle tank behind him. (17 October 2022)
Profile photo: German Chancellor Scholz speaks at a German army base in Bergen with a Leopard 2 main battle tank behind him. (17 October 2022)

John Kirby, the coordinator of the National Security Council, said in an interview with the media White House correspondent Vidakuswara that it is up to Germany to determine the size and scope of its military aid to Ukraine. “We’re not there to force and coerce and induce.”

Bryant noted that the NATO alliance remains “very, very strong in its support for Ukraine.” But he noted that NATO allies, “as sovereign nations, are up to them to make decisions because they have to consider their own national security needs, just like we do.” ”

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Earlier Friday, Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of NATO’s military commission, said Germany and other countries supporting Ukraine would each make a decision on whether to provide tanks, but warned that “sending things now costs money, but if Russia wins the war in Ukraine, the price will be much higher for all of us… We need to carefully look at what Ukraine needs, and, if possible, give them what they ask for.

Moscow said Friday that any additional tanks supplied to Ukraine would not have any impact on the direction of the conflict.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media in Moscow: “We have repeatedly said that such supplies do not fundamentally change anything, they only add problems to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”

He said the West would “regret fantasizing” that Ukraine could win on the battlefield.

U.S. Senators

Richard Blumenthal, Lindsey Graham, and Sheldon Whitehouse met with Zelensky and Ukrainian military officials in

Kiev on Friday. Media’s Kyiv-based correspondent Chernikova reported that three senators advocated at the press conference that the United States should provide tanks and long-range weapons to Ukraine to stop the Russian invasion.

They said they firmly believed that Ukraine needed help at this moment because time was not on Ukraine’s side with its allies. They also say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin is not stopped now, NATO countries will be the next target.

Three senators appealed to their constituents. They say that in order to restore world order, taxpayer contributions are necessary. Their main message to the Ukrainians is that the United States will stand with them, no matter how long it takes.

(This article draws on reports from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Reuters.)

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