Col. Martin O’Donnell, spokesman for U.S. Army Europe and Africa, said all Ukrainians who trained in tanks with U.S. forces in Germany have also returned to Ukraine, along with ammunition and tank spare parts.
“We have kept our end of the deal. From this moment on, it is up to them [Ukraine] to determine when and where to use this capability,” O’Donnell said.
Military officials say it could be some time before the Abrams are sent to the battlefield, as Ukrainian troops ensure they have the necessary support elements in place and determine when and where to use the tanks to get the most effect against Russian forces.
The first of 31 American-made Abrams tanks was delivered to Ukraine late last month, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The delivery came ahead of schedule and in time for possible use in the final weeks of Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russian forces before winter set in.
“The first Abrams are already in Ukraine and are preparing to reinforce our brigades,” Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram on September 25.
The Abrams will join other Western tanks that are already part of the Ukrainian arsenal in its fight to recover territory controlled by Russia in the eastern and southern regions of the country.
The United States’ pledge to donate Abrams tanks earlier this year came alongside European countries’ pledge to deliver German-made Leopard 2 tanks, which Berlin was unwilling to approve without a similar commitment from the United States.
The UK was the first country to agree to send Western tanks to Ukraine, pledging its Challenger 2 tanks in January this year, which arrived in the spring.
British Commander Nick Bridges stated shortly after the UK announcement that Challenger 2 tanks can “take multiple hits and stay in the fight.” However, they are considered slower than Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks.
“The battles in Ukraine will be slow, and what is needed is a heavy tank like a Challenger [tank 2] that can take hits, and more than a T-72 [Russian-made tank], which will probably be destroyed after a round,” Bridges said.
Russian forces hit a Challenger 2 tank in Ukraine for the first time last month. A Western defense source confirmed to the media that it was indeed a Challenger 2 and that the entire crew had survived the attack.
Ukraine has requested hundreds of Western tanks for its offensive. To date, he has received several dozen.
Ukraine has intensified its campaign of missile and drone strikes against targets far behind Russian lines, prompting repeated attacks on parts of the occupied Crimean peninsula.
But as winter approaches, Ukrainian forces have yet to make a decisive breakthrough, a concern among Kyiv supporters that has raised questions about the future of international support.
The arrival of the Abrams tanks in Ukraine comes as the United States provided an additional military aid package to Ukraine worth $200 million last week. The Pentagon reported that the package included air defense weapons such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile, artillery ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), TOW anti-tank missiles and 155mm and 105mm rounds.
This is the 48th time the US has used presidential authority to provide the Ukrainian military with material from US stockpiles. This is the first since Congress excluded new aid to Ukraine in a stopgap spending bill passed. Last month, to avoid a government shutdown.
The United States has provided Ukraine with about $44 billion in security aid since the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion in February 2022.
The Pentagon still has about $5 billion in funding approved by Congress for Ukrainian military aid.
Shortly after the stopgap spending bill was passed, the House of Representatives removed its speaker, Kevin McCarthy. The House has not yet voted on a new president, and new aid to Ukraine could depend on who is elected.