Allies provide more weapons to Ukraine, but no decision on tanks yet

Ukrainian military vehicles drive along a road outside the town of Chasiv Yar on January 18, 2023 in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | beautiful pictures

Western allies on Friday dampened Ukraine’s hopes of quickly shipping battle tanks to boost firepower for a spring offensive against Russian forces, with the United States urging Kiev stopped conducting such an operation.

Speaking after a meeting of allies at Ramstein airbase in Germany, the top US general also said it would be very difficult for Ukraine to drive out Russian aggression forces from the country this year.

Before the meeting Ramstein was dominated by the question of whether Germany would agree to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine or allow other countries that have them to do so.

Ultimately, no decision on the supply of Leopards was made Friday, officials said, although commitments have been made for a large amount of other weapons, including air defense systems and other tank models.

“We had a frank discussion about Leopards 2. It will be continued,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleskii Reznikov said after the meeting.

A senior US official said in Washington that the US is also standing by its decision not to provide Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

In Ramstein, US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference: “From a military point of view, I still think this year, it’s going to be very, very difficult to push the troops out. Russian team out of every inch of Ukraine occupied by Russia.”

This development could be disappointing for Ukraine, as the war, which was invaded by Russia in February last year, continues with no immediate solution or renunciation. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy specifically requested more battle tanks.

Ukraine has been hit hard this week, reporting 44 people confirmed dead and 20 missing following a Russian missile attack on an apartment complex in Dnipro. Russians in St Petersburg and Moscow laid flowers at impromptu memorials to the victims.

Germany is on alert

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a press conference at the end of the Ramstein meeting that although timing was of the essence for Ukraine to fight Russian forces in the spring, Ukraine was well equipped even without Leopards.

“Ukraine does not depend on a single platform,” he said.

The administration of US President Joe Biden faces domestic pressure to provide more advanced weapons. A group of US senators visiting Kyiv on Friday criticized the delay. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters: “We shouldn’t send American troops to Ukraine, but we should give Ukraine whatever we can give our military. if they’re fighting on land.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters that Ukraine’s supporters need to focus not only on sending new weapons but also on supplying ammunition for old systems and helping to maintain them.

For its part, the Kremlin said supplying Ukraine with tanks would not help and that the West would regret having “illusioned” that Kiev could win the battlefield.

Germany was under heavy pressure to allow Leopards to be sent. Prime Minister Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats are traditionally skeptical of military involvement and wary of unexpected moves that could lead Moscow to escalate further.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said he could not say when a decision would be made on the tanks but Berlin was ready to act quickly if there was consensus among its allies.

“All the pros and cons have to be weighed very carefully,” says Pistorius.

Defense ministers from NATO and other countries met in Ramstein amid fears that Russia will soon restart a military campaign to seize eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, which they say they have merger but not complete control.

Zelenskyy thanked the allies for their support at the start of the meeting but said more was needed and faster.

“We must speed up. Time must become our weapon. The Kremlin must lose,” he said.


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