'They put us in a keg': Insights into the US-German standoff over tank supplies to Ukraine | CNN policy (2023)

Washington CNN

The Biden administration is at an impasse with Germany on whetherSend fences to Ukraineahead of a key meeting of western defense leaders inDeutschlandon Friday.

In recent days, German officials have indicated that they will not send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine, nor will they allow any other country with German-made tanks in their inventory, unless the US also agrees to to send their M1 Abrams tanks there Ukraine.Ukraine. Kyiv. . — something the Pentagon has been saying for months it has no intention of doing given the logistical cost of maintaining it.

"They took us over a barrel," a senior Biden administration official told CNN on Thursday, adding that the Germans are demanding tank after tank and don't mind considering other US offers to add Berlin to it to encourage. send the leopards

The anti-tank comes amid a much broader debate between the United States and its European allies about sending increasingly sophisticated weapons to Ukraine, including long-range missiles that would allow Ukraine to hit targets up to 200 miles away.

The UK, Poland, Finland and the Baltic states have urged NATO members to supply Kyiv with heavier equipment in what they say is a major turning point in the war. Both Ukraine and Russia appear to be preparing for further offensives, and there are signs that Moscow may be preparing further troop deployments.

Last week, the British put pressure on their Western allies when they announced they would send 14 of their Challenger tanks to Ukraine. But Germany and the US were still opposed to sending their own tanks from Wednesday.

Berlin then dragged the Biden administration deeper into a stalemate, suggesting tank supplies depended on the US doing the same.

"If the United States decides to bring tanks to Ukraine, it will make things easier for Germany," said German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck.This was announced by Bloomberg on Tuesday from Davos.

When asked about the delivery of tanks to Ukraine on Wednesday in Davos, Chancellor Olaf Scholz made a similar statement: Germany is "strategically intertwined with our friends and partners" and "we never do anything alone, but together with others, especially with the United States".

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who took office this week, appeared to soften Germany's position, telling the New York Times Thursday night that he was unaware of "any such connection" between the need for the US to send tanks to Germany to defend them to ship. But he made no firm commitments.

A western official explained that for Scholz, the tank problem was “a red, red, red line. German tanks (fight) against Russia again. moral matter. Understandable from a historical point of view. Speaking of moral burden: I wish Germans were more sympathetic to Poland these days. Much less with Ukraine. Didn't German tanks kill Ukrainians 80 years ago? Now they can defend them from Russia's barbaric aggression."

'They put us in a keg': Insights into the US-German standoff over tank supplies to Ukraine | CNN policy (1)

Germany will not allow its coveted Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine unless the United States sends its Abrams tanks first.

03:41 - Fuente:CNN

Increased pressure in Berlin

Ahead of a meeting between US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his German counterpart on Thursday in Berlin, a senior US defense official said the US is "very optimistic that we will make progress on the tank issue."

'They put us in a keg': Insights into the US-German standoff over tank supplies to Ukraine | CNN policy (2)

Newly appointed German Defense Secretary Boris Pistorius and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III shake hands January 19 before a statement at the Defense Ministry in Berlin, Germany.

But not everyone in the US government shares this optimism. Several senior government officials have privately expressed frustration with German officials for fabricating what the United States believes to be a false equivalence between American and German tanks.

"This is nonsense," said a senior government official from the German command of American tanks alongside the Germans. "It's like they think they're the same and they're not. They don't seem to understand the difference."

US officials familiar with the situation told CNN on Thursday that the tank issue was still up in the air ahead of Friday's meeting and that, despite Austin's private lobbying campaign, it would be surprising if Germany changed its mind.

"I think if there was concern about being the only one providing this capability, that shouldn't be a problem, but ultimately the German government will make a sovereign decision," Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said Wednesday. .

Pressure is building in some circles that the US will go ahead and send Abrams tanks just to get the Germans on board.

"Scholz wants to be consistent with the United States," MP Seth Moulton told CNN after speaking with Scholz about the issue in Davos this week. “I think the United States should give some tanks if Germany needs that. That's called leadership."

On Wednesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki suggested that Warsaw could ignore any restrictions Germany intends to impose on Poland's export of its supplies of German-made tanks.

“Consent is secondary. Either we get this approval or we do what needs to be done ourselves,” said Morawiecki. “Germany is, to put it mildly, the least proactive country of the bunch. We will continue to put pressure on the chancellor.”

'They put us in a keg': Insights into the US-German standoff over tank supplies to Ukraine | CNN policy (3)

Hear what soldiers on the front lines in Ukraine are saying

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new weapon pack

'They put us in a keg': Insights into the US-German standoff over tank supplies to Ukraine | CNN policy (4)

A U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) patrols the area on April 20.

All of this is happening, as the US announced this Thursday.a new $2.5 billion security package for Ukraine, including for the first time Stryker Fighting Vehicles and more armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

But the package doesn't include M1 Abrams tanks, and the US is unlikely to deliver them any time soon because they are difficult and expensive to deliver and maintain, US officials said.

"One of the things that Secretary Austin has been very focused on is that we shouldn't give Ukrainians systems that they can't fix, they can't maintain, and they can't afford them in the long run because they're not useful." are. . said Kahl on Wednesday. "And it's not about a news cycle or anything symbolically valuable, it's what will really help Ukraine on the battlefield."

Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh threw more cold water on the German demand on Thursday, telling reporters that refueling Abrams tanks "makes no sense."

Singh called the Leopards the best option for Ukraine.

"It's a little easier to maintain, they can maneuver over large areas before needing supplies. The maintenance and high cost that would be required to maintain an Abrams is fair, it just doesn't make sense to make that available to the Ukrainians [Abrams tanks] at the moment.

Western tanks would provide the most powerful direct offensive weapon yet made available to Ukraine and, if used correctly, could allow Ukraine to retake territory against Russian forces that have had time to burrow into defensive lines. The United States began supplying refurbished Soviet-era T-72 tanks, but modern Western tanks are a generation ahead in terms of their ability to engage enemy positions.

'They put us in a keg': Insights into the US-German standoff over tank supplies to Ukraine | CNN policy (5)

The M1 Abrams, an American third-generation main battle tank, is seen at the end of joint military exercises at Nowa Deba Training Grounds, September 21, 2022.

Ukrainian officials have said they will need around 300 of these modern tanks to defeat the Russians, and the European Council on Foreign Relations estimates there are around 2,000 Leopard tanks scattered across Europe.

"We welcome Britain's bold and very timely decision to deploy the first Challenger 2 tank squadron to Ukraine," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a statement on Thursday. "However, it is not enough to achieve operational goals."

Calling on countries with Leopard 2 tanks in their reserves, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey, Ukrainian ministers vowed to “use these weapons responsibly . and solely for the purpose of protecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders”.

'They put us in a keg': Insights into the US-German standoff over tank supplies to Ukraine | CNN policy (6)

Retired officer reduces risk by sending artillery shells into Ukraine

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long-range missiles

The debate among allies over how far to go to arm Ukraine, particularly when it comes to long-range missiles, reflects a broader disagreement over the risks of escalation between NATO and Russia.

So far, the US has refused to send long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine for fear they could be used to hit targets in Russia. But in line with London's more progressive stance on military support to Ukraine, some British officials have expressed a willingness to deploy the long-range systems, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

At present, the United States is still opposed to the idea.

"Regarding the issue of ATACMS, I believe we are in a position to agree to disagree," Kahl told reporters on Wednesday.

'They put us in a keg': Insights into the US-German standoff over tank supplies to Ukraine | CNN policy (7)

In this file photo released by South Korea's Defense Ministry, the US Army's Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) fires a missile into the East Sea during a joint missile exercise between South Korea and the US in July 2017.

Noting Britain's more aggressive public stance, Ukrainian officials urged Britain to play a bigger role in Friday's meeting, people familiar with their demands told CNN. They also want British officials to be more aggressive in briefing allied foreign and defense ministers on what Ukrainians believe are the operational realities of the war and what they need to do to win it.

These discussions take place in silence because the UK has traditionally not wanted to appear to be in alignment with its allies. But there are signs that London is increasingly ready to publicly break with the US, most recently by announcing it will be supplying tanks to Ukraine.

Ahead of his visit to Washington this week, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also argued in an opinion piece that "now is the time to step up and go further and faster to give Ukraine the support it needs."

“This war has been going on for a long time. And now it's time to get it done," Cleverly added, speaking to CNN at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also joined the fight on Wednesday, urging allies to provide "heavier" and more modern weapons.

"The main message [at Ramstein] will be more support and more advanced support, heavier weapons and more modern weaponry," Stoltenberg said, referring to the NATO Defense Leaders Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Force Base on Friday. "Because this is a fight for our values, it's a fight for democracy, and we simply have to show that democracy defeats tyranny and oppression."

CNN's Alex Marquardt, Jennifer Hansler, and Haley Britzky contributed to this report.

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