Austin meets new German defense minister over Ukraine tank support – Defense News

WASHINGTON — U. S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tx met with Germany’s newly appointed protection minister, Boris Pistorius , on Thursday to push Berlin to approve the transfer of German-made tanks for Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion .

Germany won’t send or authorize the transfer of its modern Leopard two tanks in order to Ukraine until the U. H. agrees to give its own, according to multiple reports. But U. S. officials say there are no plans to send American tanks, arguing the Abrams M1 has substantial maintenance and fuel needs that would make it too difficult for Ukraine to operate.

Pentagon authorities see contemporary Leopard 2s in the arsenals of Ukraine’s European allies – and other armored vehicles recently pledged by the West – as crucial tools for Ukraine to break the particular near-stalemated fighting and launch a counter offensive this spring.

“We’ve already been working with Ukrainians upon T-72s [tanks] and on other Soviet-era storage containers, ” a senior Pentagon official said. “What’s facing them is the next step, and that’s why we’re looking at modern, mechanized armored capabilities. That’s why the focus on tanks, and Germany is the key to that capability. ”

Because Poland plus Finland have both offered to send German-built Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, subject to approval by Berlin, they’re “the most immediate, accessible, usable ability, ” the senior defense official stated.

Various versions of the Leopard 2 are in the arsenals of more than a dozen European countries. That means there is a common pool associated with spare parts as well as maintainers that could train Ukrainian forces on the weapons.

Austin is set in order to host the regular coordination meeting of top protection officials from Ukraine’s Western allies at the United States’ Ramstein Air Base within Germany upon Friday. Officials expect a group of ten or more countries will meet around the sidelines to focus on the Leopard 2 transfers.

“We are very optimistic that we will make progress on this requirement by the end of the week, ” the senior defense official said.

In a joint statement, the Oughout. K., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Slovakia, said that to ensure an Ukrainian battlefield victory in 2023, they would commit to collectively pursuing a combination of main battle reservoirs and other “unprecedented” weapons with regard to Ukraine.

“The new level of required combat power is only achieved by combinations of primary battle container squadrons, beneath air and missile defense, operating alongside divisional artillery groups, and further deep precision fires enabling targeting of Russian logistics plus command nodes in occupied territory, ” their declaration reads.

The German government, for its part, is expected to have figured out by the Ramstein meeting on Friday how to resolve a major conundrum that Scholz has created for Berlin: How to justify a potential change of heart and approve Leopards – either Germany’s own or via some other countries’ export requests – when the chancellor has made his decision dependent on Washington doing the same?

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, the Pentagon’s undersecretary regarding policy, Colin Kahl, praised the Scholz government for its contributions so far, which include Marder infantry battling vehicles and a Patriot battery.

However , he said there “shouldn’t be a concern” about Germany being the only country to provide tanks after the UK agreed to deliver its Challenger 2s and France agreed to send its AMX-10, a “light tank. ”

“I think if there was a concern about becoming alone in providing this particular capability, that will shouldn’t be considered a concern, but at the end of the day, the particular German government’s going to make the sovereign decision, ” Kahl said.

Asked about the Abrams, Kahl reiterated that the Pentagon is opposed to sending it. He called the Abrams, “a very complicated piece of equipment, ” and mentioned its gas and servicing needs would make it a burden for Ukrainian forces.

This week, several former U. T. defense officials voiced frustration at the impasse, particularly after Russian forces launched a missile attack on a civilian apartment complex in Dnipro that left dozens dead. They argued Ukraine should get both the Leopard two and Abrams.

Jim Townsend, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense during the Obama administration, said the west ought to expect Ruskies forces to be cannier and more dug-in than the troops Ukraine bested last year. Ukraine needs durable plus heavily armed tanks to team with the newly committed western infantry fighting automobiles

“Infantry combating vehicles are not tanks within and of themselves, they are meant to move soldires along with storage containers in an offensive, ” Townsend said. “It just pisses me off that we can’t get the Germans off the mark. If it takes us releasing some Abrams, okay, because I think they want to hide behind us. ”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of U. S. Military Europe, said he hoped the Oughout. K. ’s provision associated with Challengers might add pressure to provide the particular Leopard 2 or the Abrams tank, which he stated would devastate Russian causes.

“The Abrams has the best armor in the world, and its ability to absorb a hit and keep fighting is part of what makes this so special, ” Hodges said. “Its fire control system and gun can identify the target plus hit it two miles away. It can see and hit anything the Russians have before the Russians even know they are detected. ”

Rather than using any donated vehicles because replacements for their losses, Hodges envisioned Ukrainian forces creating new formations using the foreign armor, plus integrating this with their infantry and air defenses like U. S i9000. forces do in order in order to pack the biggest punch.

The particular promised soldires fighting vehicles, along with Czech-supplied self-propelled howitzers for instance, could be the basis for an armored brigade and division “capable of smashing the Russian linear defenses associated with trenches filled with poorly-trained recently-mobilized soldiers, ” Hodges mentioned.

“It’s so frustrating when you think of how the [western] decision-making has been therefore incremental, ” Hodges said. “Give them the god-danged capability and they will figure out how to use it instead of us just constantly throwing out reasons why we’re not making a decision. Let them figure out the ‘how. ’”

Joe Gould is the older Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the protection industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.

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