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Senators urge Biden to greenlight tanks for Ukraine

Germany reportedly will send Leopard tanks and allow other countries to do the same

Just back from a trip to Kyiv, Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
Just back from a trip to Kyiv, Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle urged the Biden administration to send tanks to Ukraine amid reports that Germany had decided to do so.

Nearly a year into the war, the Biden administration has hesitated over whether it should send American-made Abrams tanks to Kyiv, instead arguing that Germany should allow transfers of German-made Leopard tanks that are already in Europe and are better suited to the battlefield. 

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Tuesday afternoon that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries to send them. Up until now, Germany had balked at sending its tanks, or allowing countries like Poland to do so, without any American skin in the game. 

“If we send some Abrams tanks, it will open the floodgates to more tanks coming from allies in Germany, Leopard tanks going into Ukraine,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during a press conference on Tuesday before the news broke of Germany’s decision. “It’s impossible, in my view, to dislodge the Russians by the Ukrainians unless they have tanks.” 

Graham, alongside Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., spoke to reporters following a trip to Ukraine and meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

The lawmakers stressed their agreement with the Biden administration that the Leopard tanks would be most useful to Ukraine. But they said even a few Abrams tanks could show critical symbolic support. 

The United Kingdom has already promised to send some of its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. 

“Ukrainians can win if they have the tools that are necessary, beginning with tanks,” Blumenthal said. “The Leopard 2 tanks are important because they are there. They’re in Europe, thousands of them, with easy transport, training, fueling — they are essential.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the U.S. was “leaning towards” sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine, with a possible announcement this week. But Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters during Tuesday’s briefing that the department had no announcements to make. 

Last week, deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said Abrams tanks would present supply and maintenance issues. The modern tanks are complex and rely on jet fuel, not diesel, which could present logistical challenges. 

“It’s more of a sustainment issue. I mean, this is a tank that requires jet fuel,” Singh told reporters, adding that it “just doesn’t make sense to provide that to the Ukrainians at this moment.”

A $2.5 billion security assistance package announced by the White House Friday included  a slew of armored vehicles, artillery and other equipment, but no tanks. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also weighed in Tuesday, urging the Biden administration to send tanks and other weapons, including long-range missiles, that Ukraine has sought. 

“The United States and our friends and partners have done enough to prevent Ukraine from losing. But we have not yet done enough to help Ukraine win,” McConnell, R-Ky., said during a speech on the Senate floor. “A protracted stalemate is neither in Ukraine’s interest nor ours.”

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