Amid new aid package, US tanks for Ukraine hang in the balance

Russia At War

(NewsNation) — Defense leaders from nearly 50 countries discussed the possibility of sending additional military assistance to Ukraine during a meeting in Germany on Friday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded with Western allies to send tanks that would help punch through Russian lines. But according to Poland’s defense minister, no decision has yet been made.

So far, the U.S. Congress has approved more than $113 billion dollars in aid to Ukraine, including nearly $27 billion in direct military assistance in the form of weapons, training and supplies.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the U.S. is shipping Ukraine another massive weapons package.

“This is a decisive moment for Ukraine’s struggle to defend itself,” Austin said.

The new $2.5 billion shipment includes hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition and artillery, more than 400 Humvees and mine-resistant vehicles, or MRAPs, 59 Bradley fighting vehicles, and for the first time, 90 Stryker combat vehicles.

Strykers are capable of quickly moving both troops and arms over the open terrain of eastern Ukraine, where most of the fighting is now taking place.

But the U.S. package won’t include a weapon the Ukrainians are pleading for: The American M1 Abrams tank.

John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, defended that decision on Friday, saying, “Look, when it comes to the Abrams tank, we’ve said we’re going to continue to talk to the Ukrainians about their needs and we’re gonna continue to meet them as best we can, and we’ll do that.”

American officials say the tanks burn too much fuel, are too difficult to maintain and are not the right weapon for this stage of the fight.

Despite today’s show of support, there are new signs that Ukraine leader Zelenskyy is worried about continued U.S. support.

Zelenskyy raised the issue in a reportedly secret meeting with CIA director William Burns in Ukraine last week.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has promised there is no blank check for Ukraine, even as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, while meeting with Zelenskyy in Ukraine, pledged the GOP won’t abandon the country.

“We’re not asking for a blank check. I’m not. I’m asking for military aid for the purpose of driving Russian invaders out of Ukraine,” Graham said.

Still, some Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., remain critical and claim helping Ukraine is hurting the U.S. arsenal.

“We are short of supplies to defend this country because we’re busy defending other countries who are not paying for it and are basically freeloading off of it,” Paul said. “And this isn’t making us stronger.”

As Ukraine gears up for an expected intensification of fighting in the coming months, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned about the limits of Ukraine’s military to force out all Russian forces.

“From a military standpoint, for this year, it would be very difficult to expel all Russian forces from all bits of Russian-occupied Ukraine,” Milley said.

© 1998 - 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. | All Rights Reserved.

Trending on NewsNation