As Ukraine continues offensive operations against Russian invaders, Pentagon officials said it might become necessary to help Kyiv trade out their Soviet-era main battle tanks in favor of more modern and capable models used by NATO members.
On Monday, a senior Defense Department official said Western-style tanks for Ukraine’s soldiers are “absolutely on the table” — at some point in the future.
“We agree that armor is a really important capability area for the Ukrainians,” the defense official told reporters at the Pentagon. “We recognize that there will be a day when they may want to transition.”
Providing Ukraine with upgraded Western tanks would require “substantial” training and maintenance periods before they would be ready to take on the Russians, Pentagon officials said. The Biden administration is encouraging other countries still relying on Soviet-era tanks to provide them to Ukraine to supplement its existing inventory.
“In terms of the immediate fight, the tanks that are available [to Ukraine] that could be provided very quickly with little to no training are Soviet-type tanks,” the Defense Department official said.
A senior military official at the Pentagon said Ukraine is continuing to consolidate gains made in recent days even as Russia continues to shore up its defensive lines and solidify its positions in the disputed Donbas region.
“The Ukrainians are continuing to effectively defend against Russian attacks,” the senior military official said. “Russians are making some minor gains in terms of territory — a few hundred meters.”
Ukrainian recent successes on the battlefield have convinced some Russian volunteers to refuse combat assignments. The shadowy pro-Putin private Wagner Group is seeking to recruit about 1,500 convicted felons for their war in Ukraine but many are resisting, Pentagon officials said.
“Wagner has been suffering high losses in Ukraine, especially among their young and inexperienced fighters,” the senior Defense Department official said. “Russia is failing in its strategic objectives. Putin’s forces are clearly failing to deliver.”