Germany and the United States said Wednesday they will provide battle tanks to Ukraine to help the war-torn country strengthen its capabilities in the war against Russia.
President Joe Biden's announcement that 31 M1 Abrams tanks will be supplied to Ukraine came after Germany's offer the same day to provide the war-torn country with 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks.
Biden also spoke by phone with the leaders of Britain, France Germany and Italy, and agreed with them to step up support for Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted that Berlin had made its decision "in close cooperation with our international partners," although for a while it had been reluctant to provide the tanks to Ukraine for fear that the war could spread to countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The United States had also been hesitant to send the 70-ton Abrams, noting they are very difficult to operate and maintain.
But that changed quickly in recent days as a result of close coordination between U.S. and German officials as major democratic countries boost support for Ukraine against Russia's aggression.
"I want to thank the chancellor for his leadership and his steadfast commitment to our collective efforts to support Ukraine," Biden said at the White House. "These tanks are further evidence of our enduring and unflagging commitment to Ukraine."
Biden, however, said the U.S. decision to send the 31 tanks, on par with a Ukrainian battalion, was intended to help Ukraine protect its land and "not an offensive threat to Russia."
Biden repeated his call on Russia to withdraw from the neighboring country.
He said the United States will begin training Ukrainian forces to use the tanks as soon as possible, while Germany said it will permit other countries that have purchased Leopards for their armed forces to send them to Ukraine.
The German tanks will be some of the most potent pieces of military equipment supplied to Ukraine and will likely intensify ground battles in its east near the Russian border.
A senior U.S. government official said it may take months for the Abrams to be delivered to Ukraine.
In a video address late Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the U.S.-German coordination, calling it "historic," and stressed the need to form a "fist of freedom" against Russian tyranny.
Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said Wednesday that Madrid was ready to provide two Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, according to news agency EFE.
Ahead of Washington's announcement, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the plan to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine "quite a losing scheme," adding, "We have repeatedly said that these tanks will burn just like any others," according to Tass news agency.