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Biden announces U.S. will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine

Additionally, the U.S. will provide a training program to maintain and operate the tanks, as well as eight M88 recovery vehicles to go along with the Abrams tanks that will “provide recovery operations to make sure that the Ukrainians will be able to keep these Abrams up and running,” a senior administration official said. 

The training will not take place in Ukraine, a senior administration official added.

This decision was made after “continued diplomatic conversations” over the last few weeks with European allies and partners, including Germany, a senior official said.

“President Biden will be or has spoken with Chancellor Scholz several times this month to coordinate on security assistance to Ukraine, including the joint announcement that we made a couple of weeks ago on patriot and the provisions of other assistance,” the official said.

Presidents Biden and Zelenskyy at the White House last year.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images file

The president’s announcement comes after he held a call with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany along with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to continue discussions on aiding Ukraine.

The decision is a reversal for the Biden administration, which had been resisting pressure from Germany to send the tanks to Ukraine. U.S. officials previously insisted that Biden was not inclined to provide Abrams tanks because members of his national security team, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, did not believe they would be a net positive for the Ukrainians given how difficult they are to operate and maintain.

Asked by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell on a background call Wednesday what had changed in recent days and weeks for the U.S. to decide to send the tanks, a senior official said the administration has been trying to “do the best we can to evolve the capabilities we are providing with to Ukraine with the war itself.”

“And I think we all look at what’s happening now and what we expect to happen in the future, particularly in the Donbas area, the kinds of capabilities that Ukraine really needs are combined arms maneuver capabilities, the ability to fight effectively in open terrain, particularly and armored capabilities are a key part of that,” the senior administration official said.

During his announcement Tuesday, Biden denied that Germany forced his hand on sending tanks to Ukraine.

“Germany didn’t force me to change my mind. We wanted to make sure we were all together. That’s what we were going to do all along,” the president said.

Courtney Kube, Mosheh Gains and Carol E. Lee contributed.

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