By Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Portal) – The United States is looking to break the dynamics of grueling warfare and near-frozen frontlines in Ukraine with newly announced military capabilities that it hopes will give new impetus to Kiev’s fight against Russian forces, a senior official said Pentagon official on Wednesday.
But Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top political adviser, said the Pentagon is still not ready to meet Kiev’s demands for gas-guzzling M1 Abrams main battle tanks.
“I just don’t think we’re ready,” said Kahl, who had just returned from a trip to Ukraine. “The Abrams tank is a very complicated machine. It’s expensive. It’s difficult to train on. It has a jet engine.”
Kahl’s comments came ahead of a meeting of senior defense officials from dozens of countries at the US Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany this week to coordinate military aid to Kyiv.
The United States has committed about $24 billion to help Ukraine defend against Russian forces, including a new $3.5 billion package announced this month and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, armored personnel carriers, surface-to-air missiles and ammunition.
US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to next approve Stryker armored vehicles for Ukraine.
Pressure is growing on Germany to send its Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine – or at least to authorize their shipment from third countries.
But Germany appears to want to tie such a post to a US decision on Abrams. A German government source told Portal Germany would allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help in its defense against Russia if the United States agrees to send its own tanks.
On Thursday US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet with Germany’s new Secretary of Defense Boris Pistorius in Berlin.
Noting the UK’s commitment to sending 14 of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, Kahl said without confirming any German conditions for the Leopard’s deployment: “I think if there are concerns about deploying that capability alone, there should be Don’t worry.”
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“But at the end of the day, the federal government will make a sovereign decision,” the US defense official said.
Kahl also praised Germany’s previous contributions.
“I think we should give Germany enormous credit for their generosity to date toward Ukraine,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.
Frontlines in Ukraine have hardened since Kyiv regained significant areas to the east and south in the second half of 2022. Kahl described brutal World War I-style combat with advances measured in blocks.
“We’re really focused on bringing those capabilities to Ukraine for the next phase of the conflict, to really try to change that dynamic and continue the momentum that Ukrainians had in late summer and early fall,” Kahl said, echoing comments by British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in Washington on Tuesday.
The U.S. deployment of Bradley combat vehicles, combined arms training, and other new weapons to the Ukrainians is intended to enable Kyiv to change static defense dynamics “by being able to fire through the use of mechanized forces and to manoeuvre,” said Kahl.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)