In the weeks after Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Christmastime visit to Washington, U.S., German and other European leaders became locked in an increasingly ugly tit-for-tat over whether to send tanks to Ukraine. As language got heated behind the scenes, neither the U.S. nor Germany would budge — even as the standoff exposed a rare breach between two of Kyiv’s biggest backers.
Ultimately, President Joe Biden decided it was more important to show a unified front and send the tanks — a move that could go down as one of the most consequential decisions in the multinational effort to arm Ukraine.
Biden concluded it was important to move in lockstep with an ally, despite the Pentagon’s misgivings, and put an end to the dispute. Backed by some of his top aides, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Biden early this week agreed to send 31 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany, meanwhile, is sending 14 of its own Leopard tanks to the front line, and gave permission to other countries to re-export their German-made tanks as well, for a total of about 80 Leopards.