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News Germany confirms it will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine: live updates

Credit…Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Weeks of political wrangling among Western allies over whether to supply Ukraine with advanced main battle tanks appears close to resolution, with the Biden administration and Germany expected to announce they will each send the tanks that Kyiv has been seeking for months.

Germany’s move to deploy its Leopard 2 tanks and the U.S. to send M1 Abrams tanks could prompt several European countries to seek permission from Germany to send Leopard 2 tanks from their own stocks, greatly increasing the potential number of modern tanks in Ukraine . German Chancellor Olaf Schulz is expected to announce his government’s decision on Wednesday.

But once the diplomatic spat is over, the hard part will begin: bringing heavy armor and other combat vehicles into battle as Russia prepares for a new offensive expected in the spring or sooner.

U.S. officials have said it could be years before the Abrams tanks reach any Ukrainian theater. But Moscow has stepped up its threats, with Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, calling the move to send the Abrams tank a “blatant provocation” and warning that “there is no doubt that the U.S. Tanks will be destroyed”.

The process of delivering Western weapons and other military equipment to Ukraine has been one of the war’s best-kept secrets. Fearing that Russia would target roads, railroads or staging areas as it transports supplies to Ukraine’s eastern and southern fronts, officials and experts have dubbed them stealth convoys, often hidden in darkness or camouflaged to evade attack.

Russia does not know if it has succeeded in countering a large shipment of Western weapons destined for Ukraine, and experts have described the process of moving huge munitions and vehicles to the conflict zone as a game of cat and mouse that Ukraine has been winning.

“In public, no one knows how this happened,” said Heinrich Brauss, a former NATO assistant secretary-general who now works at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “I’m not even sure the capital knew the details. But they did.”

An M1 Abrams tank arrives in Bremerhaven, Germany ahead of the 2020 International Military Exercise.Credit…Patrik Stollarz/AFP — Getty Images

The risks — and the fear of angering Russia — are so great that Ukrainian forces must retrieve the weapons from storage in NATO territory, rather than have Western troops or contractors transport them to the conflict zone.

Nikolai Sokov, an expert at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation and a former Russian diplomat, said the Russian attack on the weapons convoy “would not only delay future deliveries, but also cause at least a considerable loss” of modern armor before it reaches the front lines . “

A Pentagon spokesman declined to discuss last week that the Biden administration has pledged more than $27 billion in arms and security aid to Ukraine, most of it since the war began last February. But former Western military officials and experts have described a convoluted delivery route, mainly from hubs in Poland, Slovakia and Germany, that is critical to getting tanks, armored fighting vehicles and giant artillery to the front lines.

Most weapons will be transported on railcars or flatbed trucks that are strong enough to carry their enormous weight. Experts say rail is usually the fastest and safest way to transport armor, as long convoys of flatbed trucks could draw Russian attention. Getting tanks and other armored vehicles into battle takes too much time, fuel and spare parts, experts say. Essentially, they would also be moving targets for Russian warplanes.

Gen. Robert Abrams, a former four-star U.S. Army general with decades of experience in the tank named after his father, who is retiring in 2021, echoed concerns from some Pentagon leaders who believe the Ukrainian military Difficult to repair and maintain a fleet of gas guzzling tanks. That’s after getting them there.

“The time it takes to get there — to be able to build up the supply inventory, deliver the vehicles, train the crew, train the mechanics, gather everything you need — how long does it take?” Gen. Abrams said in an interview. “I don’t know, but it’s not 30 days, I can tell you.”

However, he said the impact of the Abrams tank and its 120mm gun on inferior Russian tanks was unquestionable.

“It’s going to tear them apart,” General Abrams said. “It leaves a hole in anything.”

john ismay Contribution report.

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