By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
The first batch of American-made M1 Abrams tanks arrived in Ukraine on Saturday for deployment to support operations aimed at breaking through Russian lines, officials said, The New York Times reported Monday.
The first round of Abrams arrived early enough to be used in the still-ongoing counteroffensive, the NYT reported, citing two defense officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the delivery had not been formally announced, while the remainder of the 31 the Biden administration promised will arrive in the coming months. Officials had initially speculated it would take a year to get the U.S.-made heavy tanks to Ukraine after Biden announced the delivery in January, but changes to the way the U.S. planned to deliver the tanks allowed the administration to speed up the transfer.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed Monday in a social media statement the tanks had arrived “and are being prepared to reinforce our brigades,” Reuters reported.
Still, they will arrive toward what could be the final weeks of a grueling counteroffensive planned for the spring that did not end up starting until June. Ukraine has eeked out marginal gains at high cost, according to the NYT.
Ukrainian forces will have to devote the Abrams “in a very tailored way, for very specific, well-crafted operations,” or risk their early destruction, Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, told The War Zone, a military blog, during a trip to Washington last week.
If sent directly to the front lines to engage Russian troops, they will fall prey to anti-tank mines and suicide drones Russia is employing in high numbers, Budanov said.
“If they are used at the front line and just in a combined arms fight, they will not live very long on the battlefield. They need to be used in those breakthrough operations, but very well-prepared,” he said.
Ukraine has said it needs at least 300 Western tanks to fully carry out armored elements of the counteroffensive, but so far has received just half of that, Col. Markus Reisner, who has been monitoring the conflict from Austria’s main military training school, said, according to the NYT.
Around 200 Ukrainian troops completed training on practice tanks at locations in Germany, spokesperson Col. Martin O’Donnell said in late August, according to Politico.
The Biden administration offered 31 U.S.-made M1 Abrams main battle tanks for Ukraine in after a barrage of demands from Kyiv for advanced western-made heavy tanks, a decision made apparently against the Pentagon’s initial recommendation.
Amid pressure from NATO, however, the administration authorized 31 Abrams, equal to one Ukrainian tank brigade, in the interest of maintaining a unified front and unlocking German-made Leopard 2s for Ukraine.
Critics argued the tanks would arrive too late and in too small quantities to be of any help, Politico reported.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.