Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said 31 M1 Abrams tanks promised to Ukraine will soon reach the battlefield, a development that officials in Kyiv have been eagerly anticipating for several months.
At the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, Mr. Austin also urged dozens of allied defense ministers to produce more air defense and artillery ammunition that Ukraine’s forces desperately need on the battlefield. He said the United States would join other NATO members to train Ukraine’s pilots on F-16 fighter tactics.
He said the Abrams tanks would provide Ukraine with “another formidable armor capability” along with the German-made Leopard 2 armored vehicles. “This coalition of like-minded countries continues to move heaven and earth to get Ukraine what it needs right now,” Mr. Austin said Tuesday.
The plea for more armaments came as Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian invaders moves slowly forward.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt often referred to the U.S. as the “arsenal of democracy” because of the nation’s unsurpassed ability to produce weapons for allies in the early days of World War II.
Mr. Austin said the U.S. is again ramping up its industrial base to counter Russian attacks against Ukraine.
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“I challenge my fellow ministers to once again look into their stockpiles of 155mm ammunition and key air defense systems to ensure that we are all giving everything that we can to prepare Ukraine for the upcoming winter,” Mr. Austin said.
Ukrainian troops recaptured more than half of the territory lost during the Russian invasion almost two years ago, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Tuesday during a press conference.
“Every inch of reclaimed territory only happens because of the bravery, the honor, and the incredible sacrifice made by the Ukrainian people in their military,” Gen. Milley said.
Mr. Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked for advanced jets like the recently approved F-16 Fighting Falcon. But, Gen. Milley, who retires at the end of the month, said Ukraine’s combat priorities are air defense weapons, artillery, and mechanized infantry.
“My tenure may be ending, but the mission of this group continues until the end state of a free and sovereign Ukraine has been attained,” Gen. Milley said.
Ukraine is unlikely to suspend combat operations against Russia after the end of the summer. Gen. Milley said Kyiv has the strategic initiative, and they intend to keep fighting.
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“This is a tough, hard fight, and Ukraine is making slow, steady progress every single day,” he said. “They’ve liberated 54 plus percent of Ukraine but there’s a lot left to go.”