A US official told The New York Times on Friday that the Biden administration will work with allies in Europe to send Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine as the Western push to pour weapons into the country continues.
The move marks an escalation in Western military aid to Ukraine. Until now, the US and its NATO allies have provided Ukraine with thousands of shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles but have held off on sending more advanced weapons over concerns of provoking Russia.
The US official wouldn’t specify how many tanks will be sent or what countries they will come from. Ukraine needs Soviet-made weapons since its armed forces are trained to use them, and only the NATO members that are former Soviet states can provide them.
The decision came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with NATO to send tanks and warplanes. The US had previously backed off from a plan to transfer Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Separately on Friday, the Pentagon announced a new $300 million military aid package for Ukraine. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the Biden administration has pledged $1.6 billion in military equipment for the Ukrainians.
According to the Pentagon, the new military aid package includes:
- Laser-guided rocket systems;
- Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
- Small-to-large caliber non-standard ammunition;
- Night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, and optics;
- Tactical secure communications systems;
- Non-standard machine guns;
- Commercial satellite imagery services;
- Medical supplies, field equipment, and spare parts.
Poland has turned into a hub for NATO weapons that are being sent to Ukraine, and President Biden recently said that US soldiers in the country are training Ukrainian troops. The Pentagon downplayed Biden’s comments and said the US troops are only “liaising” with Ukrainian forces as they give them weapons.