Pentagon says Ukraine’s NATO-style tanks are ‘on the table’ — but not yet

As Ukraine continues its offensive against Russian invaders, Pentagon officials say it may be necessary to help Kyiv retire its Soviet-era main battle tanks in favor of more modern, more powerful models used by NATO members.

On Monday, a senior Defense Ministry official said Western-style tanks for Ukrainian soldiers were “absolutely on the table” – at some point in the future.

“We agree that armor is a very important capability area for the Ukrainians,” the defense official told reporters at the Pentagon. “We recognize that at some point they may want to transition.”

Supplying Ukraine with upgraded Western tanks will require a “substantial” training and maintenance period before it is ready to take on the Russians, Pentagon officials said. The Biden administration is encouraging other countries that still rely on Soviet-era tanks to supply Ukraine with those tanks to supplement their existing stockpiles.

“In terms of direct combat, the available tanks [to Ukraine] Soviet-style tanks can be delivered very quickly with little training,” the Defense Ministry official said.

A senior Pentagon military official said that while Russia continued to consolidate its defenses and fortify its positions in the disputed Donbass region, Ukraine continued to build on gains made in recent days.

“The Ukrainians are continuing to effectively defend against Russian attacks,” the senior military officer said. “The Russians have made some small advances in territory — a few hundred meters.”

Ukraine’s recent success on the battlefield has persuaded some Russian volunteers to refuse combat missions. Pentagon officials say the shady, pro-Putin private Wagner group is recruiting about 1,500 convicted felons for their war in Ukraine, but many are resisting.

“Wagner suffered huge losses in Ukraine, especially among their young and inexperienced fighters,” the senior Defense Department official said. “Russia has failed to achieve its strategic goals. Putin’s forces clearly cannot deliver.”

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