Allies offer more weapons to Ukraine, but no decisions made on tanks

The tanks would give Ukraine an edge as it switches from defensive to offensive operations

Reuters
Published : 20 Jan 2023, 02:57 PM
Updated : 20 Jan 2023, 02:57 PM

Western allies on Friday dampened Ukraine's hopes for a rapid shipment of battle tanks to boost its firepower for a spring offensive against Russian forces, with the United States urging Kyiv to hold off from mounting such an operation.

The senior-most US general, speaking after a meeting of the allies at Ramstein Air Base, also said it would be very hard for Ukraine to drive Russia's invading forces from the country this year.

The run-up to the Ramstein meeting had been dominated by the issue of whether Germany would agree to send Leopard 2 tanks, or permit other countries which have them, to Ukraine.

In the end, no decision on supplying Leopards was reached, officials said, although pledges for large amounts of other weapons including air defence systems and some other model of tanks, were given.

The United States was also holding fast to its decision not to provide Abrams tanks to Ukraine yet, a senior US official said in Washington. It wanted to see the latest supply of US weaponry in place and training provided, the official said.

In Ramstein, US General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference: "From a military standpoint, I still maintain that for this year, it would be very, very difficult to militarily eject the Russian forces from every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine." 

The developments were likely to come as a disappointment to Ukraine as the war unleashed by a Russian invasion last February grinds on with no solution nor let-up in the suffering in sight. President Volodymyr Zelensky had specifically requested more tanks.

The German-built Leopards are seen as especially suitable for Ukraine as they are widely in use, meaning several countries could each chip in some of their tanks to support Ukraine. They would give Ukraine an edge as it switched from defensive to offensive operations.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he was "moderately pessimistic" Berlin would give the green light. His government has suggested Poland may go ahead anyway.

The German government said on Friday it had no information on an official request to Germany from any country for permission to re-export German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Kyiv and Moscow have relied mainly on Soviet-era T-72 tanks in warfare long thought outmoded; hundreds have been destroyed in what Russian President Vladimir Putin calls a "special military operation" to protect Russia and Russian speakers.

Ukraine and its allies say Russia faces no threat and is just trying to grab territory.

The US aid announced on Thursday, was valued at up to $2.5 billion, and includes 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 90 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers, making a total of more than $27.4 billion in US security aid. It did not include Abrams tanks, which US officials say are complicated and guzzle fuel.

CIA DIRECTOR VISIT

Kyiv has repeatedly said it has no plans to attack Russia, only defend itself.

"Ukrainians will fight! With tanks or without. But every tank from Ramstein means saved Ukrainian lives," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram.

CIA Director William Burns travelled in secret to Ukraine's capital Kyiv to meet Zelenskiy, a US official told Reuters on Thursday, declining to say when the visit took place.

The Washington Post, which first reported the visit, said it was at the end of last week and that Burns briefed Zelenskiy on his expectations on Russia's military plans.

Fighting has been most intense in Ukraine's industrialised eastern Donbas region, which Russia claimed to have annexed in September along with two regions in the south.

Germany's foreign intelligence service said the Ukrainian army was losing a three-digit number of soldiers every day, news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Friday. Neither Russia nor Ukraine regularly detail their own losses, but Ukraine says Russian losses are higher than its own.

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Editor-in-Chief and Publisher