(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing claims they are unsuitable for use in a war with Russia.
“Supporting Ukraine’s ability to fight off Russian aggression to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity is a worldwide commitment,” Biden said.
Biden was flanked by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as he delivered the remarks on “continued support for Ukraine.”
The 31 Abrams tanks are the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion, Biden said, calling the Abrams “the most capable tanks in the world.”
The Biden administration had earlier argued that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.
“We’re also giving Ukraine the parts and equipment necessary to effectively sustain these tanks on the battlefield,” Biden said.
It is not clear when or how the tanks would be delivered to Ukraine, or how soon they could have an impact on the battlefield.
“We will begin to train the Ukrainian troops on these issues of sustainment, logistics and maintenance as soon as possible,” Biden said. “Delivering these tanks to the field is going to take time that we’ll see and we’ll use to make sure the Ukrainians are fully prepared to integrate the Abram tanks into their defenses.”
The German government also confirmed earlier on Wednesday it will provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 battle tanks and approve requests by other countries to do the same.
Germany had said the Leopards would not be sent unless the U.S. put its Abrams on the table, not wanting to incur Russia’s wrath without the U.S. similarly committing its own tanks.
“Germany didn’t force me to change my mind,” Biden said. “This is what we were going to do all along — all together.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that Germany was “acting in close coordination” with its allies.
In a statement, the government said it will initially provide Ukraine with one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, which comprises 14 vehicles, from its own stocks. The goal is to provide Ukraine with a total of two battalions together with other countries.
“The expectation on the part of Russia is we’re going to break up,” Bidenn said. “We are fully, thoroughly, totally united.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed satisfaction at the news. Several European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s announcement means they can give some of their stocks to Ukraine.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, a member of the Free Democratic Party who chairs the parliamentary defense committee, said the news was “a relief for a mistreated and brave Ukraine.”
“The Leopard’s freed!” said German lawmaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt, a senior Green party lawmaker.
“The decision to approve (other countries’ requests) and supply the Leopard 2 was arduous, but unavoidable,” she said.
Strack-Zimmermann had been one of the loudest voices calling for a swift decision on arms supplies to Ukraine.
Two smaller opposition parties criticized the move, however.
The far-right Alternative for Germany called the decision “irresponsible and dangerous.”
“Germany risks being drawn directly into the war as a result,” its co-leader, Tino Chrupalla, said. The party, known by its acronym AfD, has friendly ties to Russia.
The Left party, which also has historic links to Moscow, warned of a possible escalation in the conflict.
“The supply of Leopard battle tanks, which ends a further taboo, potentially takes us closer to a third world war than in the direction of peace in Europe,” the party’s parliamentary leader, Dietmar Bartsch, told German news agency dpa.
Recent opinion polls show German voters split on the idea.
The pressure on Scholz mounted this week after Poland formally asked Germany to approve sending Leopard 2 tanks from Polish stocks to Ukraine. Other European nations have also indicated willingness to part with their own battle tanks as part of a larger coalition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.