The White House has surprised with a statement on the planned delivery of US Abrams-type battle tanks to Ukraine: US President Joe Biden agreed to this due to pressure from Germany, Biden's security adviser Jake Sullivan has now made it clear.
The Germans have told Biden that they are not prepared to send German Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine until the US president agrees to also send US main battle tanks, Sullivan said. The White House thus contradicts both its own statements from the past and those of the federal government. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is expected in the White House on Friday.
Scholz insists on coordination with the USA
Scholz had long hesitated to send German Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine - until the United States agreed to deliver Abrams tanks in January. Scholz always emphasizes the close coordination with the largest and most influential NATO member.
At the time, however, the federal government had made it clear that it did not make the delivery of German-made Leopard 2 tanks dependent on the delivery of M1 Abrams tanks from the USA. "At no time (...) was there a link or a requirement that one thing had to happen so that the other could happen," government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.
Sullivan said of Biden's decision, "He originally decided against sending them because his military said they weren't useful on the battlefield in this fight." German Leopard tanks, on the other hand, were said to be useful. In the interests of "alliance unity" and "to ensure Ukraine gets what it wants," Biden agreed to long-term supply of Abrams tanks -- although the Abrams are not what Ukraine needs right now, Sullivan said in an interview with the US broadcaster ABC.
Spokesman emphasizes Biden's role in the "free world"
"The President said: OK, I will be the leader of the free world. I will send Abrams in the long term if you send Leopard tanks now," Biden's security adviser described the coordination process with Germany. The fact that the Leopard tanks are now being sent is an example of Biden rallying a global alliance so that Ukraine can get what it needs.
In the interview, Sullivan responded to a question that the Abrams tanks might not arrive in Ukraine at all this year. The US government orders the tanks for Ukraine from industry - which means they don't come from the military's own stocks. It will therefore be quite a while before the tanks finally arrive in Ukraine.
The USA, too, had often contradicted itself in its public communications on the subject of Abrams tanks. At first it was said that the provision of this main battle tank was not considered sensible for practical reasons. "It just doesn't make sense to give the Ukrainians this tool right now," Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said in mid-January.
Advantage on the battlefield
After the US delivery commitment, however, she emphasized that this had not only served to clear the way for tank deliveries from allies. The US main battle tanks would give Ukraine an advantage on the battlefield, she said.
Biden has also expressed himself somewhat differently in the past than his security adviser now. "Germany didn't force me to change my mind," Biden said when asked by a journalist about the US government's change of heart. Germany has really made a strong case, the Chancellor is a strong voice for unity and a close friend, Biden continued. The spokesman for the US State Department spoke of successful diplomacy in view of the decision.