The first batch of American-made Abrams tanks arrived in Ukraine on Monday months ahead of schedule, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced, thanking Washington for keeping its word to help in the ongoing counteroffensive against Russian forces.
The much-needed tanks came just in time to help Ukraine advance in its nearly three-month-old counterstrike, which may be hampered with winter fast approaching.
“Good news from Minister Umerov. Abrams are already in Ukraine and are being prepared to reinforce our brigades,” Zelensky said on Telegram, adding that he was “grateful to allies.”
Zelensky did not say how many of the tanks arrived, though the US is expected to deliver 31 of the vehicles over the next several weeks.
Unnamed US defense officials told the New York Times that two platoons worth of tanks — between eight and 10 — were delivered Monday, though more M1 Abrams tanks will be sent in the coming months.
The Abrams tanks will be added to Ukraine’s arsenal as the country attempts to reclaim Russian-held territory in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions, where the fighting has dragged on incessantly for months without any major victories.
The highly anticipated shipment comes as experts caution that Ukraine’s Western allies, including the US, have stalled supplying weapons critical to the long-awaited counteroffensive, including Abrams tanks and F-16 fighter jets.
Some experts went as far as arguing that had Ukraine been provided the weapons it was asking for last year when Russia was most vulnerable after a string of humiliating defeats, Kyiv could have avoided a lot of deaths and been in a much stronger position now.
The hesitation to provide military aid — stemming in part from Western fears gleefully stoked by Moscow’s propagandists of a nuclear war with Russia — has afforded Vladimir Putin’s army time to map out and mine huge swaths of occupied territory, and erect formidable World War I- and World War II-style defenses.
As a result, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has slowed to a crawl — something experts have argued would be altered by the addition of Abrams tanks to Ukraine’s arsenal, as well as F-16s.
“If more had been approved earlier, with fastest training and delivery as a clear priority, Ukraine would likely have been better off today as Russia would have had less time to prepare, and Ukraine would have had more combat power to apply to their objectives earlier,” retired US Army Maj. Gen. Gordon “Skip” Davis, now a senior fellow with the Center for European Policy Analysis, previously told The Post.
Even so, Ukraine wouldn’t be able to make use of the new equipment, like F-16s, until sometime next year — because training pilots on the aircraft and building infrastructure to maintain and shield them from Russian missiles takes time.
Monday’s delivery was the answer to Ukraine’s persistent requests for modern tanks earlier this year. European countries have already provided the country with dozens of German-made Leopards as well as some British Challengers.
Ukraine has carried out a recent series of attacks on key Russian targets, including one on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters last week. During that attack, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was killed along with 33 others.
The Russian Defense Ministry has not commented on whether Sokolov had been killed in the attack on Crimea, which Russia seized and annexed in 2014.
Russian-installed officials confirmed the Ukrainian attack on Friday, saying at least one missile struck the fleet headquarters.
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