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    Defence leaders meet amid dissent over tanks for Ukraine

    RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, GERMANY (AP) – Defence leaders gathered at Ramstein Air Base in Germany yesterday to hammer out future military aid to Ukraine, amid ongoing dissent over who will provide the battle tanks that Ukrainian leaders say they desperately need to recapture territory from Russia.

    United States (US) Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army General Mark Milley discussed the latest massive package of aid the US is sending, which totals USD2.5 billion and includes Stryker armoured vehicles for the first time.

    But broader hesitation over sending tanks to Ukraine has roiled the coalition, as Germany faces mounting pressure to supply Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, or at least clear the way for others, such as Poland, to deliver German-made Leopards from their own stock.

    The US has also declined, at least so far, to provide M1 Abrams tanks, citing the extensive and complex maintenance and logistical challenges with the high-tech vehicle.

    The US believes it would be more productive to send Leopards since many allies have them and Ukrainian troops would only have to get trained on that one, versus needing far more training on the more difficult Abrams.

    Soldiers stand next to a Stryker combat vehicle in Vilseck, Germany. PHOTO: AP

    The United Kingdom announced last week that it will send Challenger 2 tanks, and has said it’s a natural progression of military aid to Ukraine.

    At a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said the Leopard and Challenger aren’t comparable to the Abrams because the Abrams is much harder to maintain and wouldn’t be a good fit.

    “It’s more of a sustainment issue. I mean, this is a tank that requires jet fuel, whereas the Leopard and the Challenger, it’s a different engine.” The Leopard and Challenger are “a little bit easier to maintain”, Singh said.

    “They can manoeuvre across large portions of territory before they need to refuel,” he added. “The maintenance and the high cost that it would take to maintain an Abrams, it just doesn’t make sense to provide that to the Ukrainians at this moment.”

    The package of aid being sent by the US includes eight Avenger air defence systems, 350 Humvees, 53 mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, more than 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and rockets, and missiles for the high mobility artillery rocket system.

    It was announced on Thursday by the Pentagon.

    Germany’s new Defence Minister, Boris Pistorius, who took office just an hour before he met with Austin on Thursday, is among those likely to attend the Ramstein meeting.

    Referring to the tanks, he told ARD television he was “pretty sure we will get a decision on this in the coming days, but I can’t yet tell you today how it will look”.

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