The Pentagon said the US may provide “NATO compatible” tanks to Ukraine’s military to replace aging Soviet-era gear, a step towards deeper participation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Speaking to reporters at a briefing on Monday, a Pentagon spokesman was asked whether the administration of US President Joe Biden was considering heavy armor in future aid packages to Ukraine and that Ukrainian officials recently visited Washington to specifically appeal for tanks.
“Tanks are absolutely on the table along with other areas,” the official said, noting that while Ukrainian troops are more familiar with “Soviet-type tanks,” the Pentagon recognizes “that there will be a day when they may want to transition and may need to transition to NATO compatible models.”
The official said that whether Western tanks might be included in upcoming arms deliveries would depend on how quickly Ukrainian forces could be trained to use and maintain the vehicles, but added the Biden administration is “certainly open” to the idea.
Last week, the White House announced a military package, worth some $600 million, marking Biden’s 21st presidential weapons drawdown for Ukraine.
The package included additional rounds for US-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 36,000 artillery shells, 1,000 precision-guided munitions, a number of transport vehicles, and small arms.
Ever since, Washington has sent heavy weaponry to Ukraine and shared intelligence with the embattled government in Kiev, despite warnings from Moscow that the unfaltering Western support would indefinitely prolong the war.
The White House said that the funds are required to keep up the pace of aid to Ukraine for the first three months of fiscal 2023, which begins at the start of October. The Biden administration official said approximately three-fourths of the funds Congress has already approved for Ukraine has been spent or obligated.
The total US aid that Congress has approved so far for Ukraine this year is nearly $54 billion.
Biden signed the last package, totaling $40 billion, into law in May. At the time, the White House said it expected those funds to last through the end of the fiscal year.