First Abrams Tanks Have Been Delivered to Ukraine, Zelenskyy Announces

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
September 25, 2023Russia–Ukraine War
First Abrams Tanks Have Been Delivered to Ukraine, Zelenskyy Announces
U.S. M1A1 Abrams tanks arrive at Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 12, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Adrian Greenwood)

The first U.S.-made M1 Abrams tanks arrived in Ukraine on Monday, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr. Zelenskyy announced the arrival of these tanks in a post on his official Telegram channel.

“Good news from [Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov]. ‘Abrams’ are already in Ukraine and are preparing to reinforce our brigades,” Mr. Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram. “I am grateful to the allies for fulfilling the agreements!”

Mr. Umerov also alluded to the arrival of Abrams tanks in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

It was unclear, from Mr. Zelenskyy and Mr. Umerov’s posts, just how many Abrams tanks had arrived in Ukraine as of Monday.

In January, President Joe Biden announced the United States would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, but U.S. defense officials anticipated deliveries would take several months. In March, the U.S. Department of Defense announced it would expedite this delivery timeline by selecting older M1A1 models of Abram tanks as opposed to the newer M1A2.

“The decision to provide the M1A1 variant of the Abrams tank will allow us to significantly expedite delivery timelines and deliver this important capability to Ukraine by the fall of this year,” Pentagon Press Secretary Gen. Pat Ryder said in March.

The United States and several of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies committed to sending various tanks and other armored vehicles to Ukrainian forces to assist their efforts to drive back Russian forces that entered the country in February of last year.

Several NATO allies were able to supply and train Ukrainian forces with their donated tanks ahead of the start of a Ukrainian counteroffensive. The U.S. Abrams tanks, on the other hand, missed the start of the Ukrainian offensive in June. Ukrainian forces have reported modest territorial gains in the south and east during the counteroffensive.

While the Abrams tanks missed the start of the offensive, Mr. Zelenskyy’s Telegram post suggests he believes they can still bolster Ukrainian forces.

Additional Support for Ukraine

The United States and its NATO allies have committed to providing other weapons systems to Ukraine in recent months.

The governments of the Netherlands and Denmark are preparing to transfer F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. President Biden has indicated he will facilitate efforts to equip Ukraine with these fighter jets by expediting transfer approvals for the aircraft once Ukrainian pilots have been trained to fly them.

The Zelenskyy administration has also sought the U.S. MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) ballistic missile launcher.

Thus far, the Biden administration has declined to provide Ukrainian forces with the weapons system, which has enough range to strike inside Russia’s borders if launched from Ukraine.

The issue of supplying Ukraine with new weapons systems has divided lawmakers, and Republicans in particular.

Some Republicans have urged the Biden administration to send new advanced weapons, like the ATACMS, to Ukraine. Many other Republicans have signaled their opposition to continued U.S. military aid going to Ukraine.

Last week, 28 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the Biden administration, stating they would not support new Ukraine aid packages until they get answers on how the United States is tracking its existing aid to Ukraine and how the Biden administration will define its goals, measures of success, and exit plan for its ongoing strategy of propping up Ukraine against Russia.

Concerns about U.S. funding for the Ukrainian military have been heightened by the growing U.S. national debt and an ongoing budget battle that could soon result in a government shutdown.

“There’s no money in the House right now for Ukraine. There’s just not, it’s not there,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) told a reporter last week. “To be blunt, we’re running a $2 trillion deficit. Any money we give to Ukraine, we’re borrowing from our future.”

Last week, the U.S. Department of Defense announced U.S. military activities in support of Ukraine would be included among the “essential operations” that the U.S. government will continue during a shutdown.

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