The United States (US) Government has begun training Ukrainian soldiers on American-made M1 Abrams tanks in Germany, as part of a larger initiative to arm the country, which is seeking to reclaim territory lost to Russia. About 400 Ukrainian soldiers have been enrolled in the training program so far, involving basic soldiering skills, medical training, platoon and company-level involvement, and eventually large-scale exercises involving battalion-size units combatting each other. Around 200 troops began training on how to operate the tanks, while the other half was assigned to maintain them.
The US had previously expressed reluctance about sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine, citing concerns about the correct handling and maintenance of the equipment, which requires advanced training and servicing. However, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III eventually came around to the view that sending American tanks was necessary to spur Germany into following with the shipment of their coveted Leopard 2 tanks. Initially, US defense officials had said that the M1 Abrams tanks would not arrive in Ukraine until next year, but since January, the timeline has been pushed forward, with senior defense officials pushing to expedite the delivery.
Ukraine has been preparing a major counteroffensive, seeking to retake territory seized by Russia in the early days of the war. However, the delivery of the tanks and trained crews would be months away and too late to affect current plans. In addition, last week, the US administration announced that it would begin training Ukrainian pilots on American-made F-16 fighter jets, moving toward the possibility of allowing the country to acquire American-made planes. The introduction of these sophisticated weapons may worry Russia, particularly since Ukraine is not only receiving American-made arms, but also training on how to operate and maintain them. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support of Ukrainian rebels have been the cause of conflict for years.\