The US and Germany will send armored combat vehicles to Ukraine

The US and Germany will send armored combat vehicles to Ukraine

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Germany and the United States will send armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, the White House said, in a move that will give a major boost to Kyiv’s offensive capabilities.

The deliveries mark a huge shift for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has been very reluctant to provide Ukraine with heavy weaponry for fear it could draw NATO into the war.

Scholz spoke by phone with US President Joe Biden on Thursday to coordinate the positions of the two governments. The US has agreed to send Bradley fighting vehicles, while Germany is providing Marder infantry fighting vehicles and will also join the US in sending a Patriot missile battery to Kyiv.

The leaders “expressed their shared determination to continue providing necessary financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support to Ukraine for as long as necessary,” a joint statement said.

As part of these efforts, “the United States intends to supply Ukraine with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and Germany intends to provide Ukraine with Marder infantry fighting vehicles. Both sides plan to train Ukrainian forces on the respective systems,” the statement said.

Pressure on Scholz to change position grew after Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, agree to deliver AMX-10 “tank killers” to the Ukrainian armed forces – a move announced by the Elysee Palace as the first delivery of Western-made tanks to the country.

“Scholz was forced to act after Macron moved on,” said a person familiar with the discussions.

Kyiv has long called for tanks and other lethal aid as it faces a tough and slow battle across a long front line in the country’s east. The armored vehicles could play an important role in helping Ukrainian forces conduct combined arms maneuvers as Russia and Ukraine battle for small gains in a heavily entrenched area.

Kyiv has continued to ask for advanced NATO-standard main battle tanks, such as the US-made Abrams or the German-made Leopard 2, but officials have held back due to concerns about escalation with Russia and the logistics involved in supporting them.

But providing infantry fighting vehicles still represents a major policy shift. Earlier on Thursday, a senior minister in Scholz’s government hinted that change was in the works. “In the past, we have always tailored our support for the Ukrainian military to the situation,” said Robert Habek, the economy minister and vice chancellor.

“France has now decided to supply light armored systems, and the US has indicated plans to do the same. It will certainly influence the German debate as well,” he said.

When asked if Germany would ever send tanks to Ukraine, Scholz has repeatedly said that Berlin will never go it alone and that no country has ever supplied Kyiv with Western-designed tanks.

But that argument may no longer hold after the French move on the AMX-10s. Analena Berbock, the foreign minister, hinted on Thursday that if France and the US changed their positions, so would Germany. “We are going together with our partners,” she said on a trip to the UK. “We agree with our partners, as we have done over the past 11 months.”

Marders and Bradley will be warmly welcomed by the Ukrainian government, but it will likely continue to demand more. In his evening televised address on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said there was “no rational reason why Ukraine is not yet equipped with Western-type tanks.”

Scholz has steadily increased the level of support he has provided to Ukraine over the past year. At first he took a very cautious approach, but as international and domestic pressure mounted, the chancellor agreed to send in heavy weapons, including air defense systems.

Until now, however, it did not provide kits like the Marder or the heavier Leopard-2s.

So far, only Poland and the Czech Republic have sent tanks, about 280 in total, taken from their stockpiles of Soviet weapons. General Valery Zaluzhny, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, said he needed at least 300 more tanks and 700 armored personnel carriers and combat vehicles to push Russian forces back to their positions before February 24.

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