The Biden administration is inching towards sending M-1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine after its leaders called on the West for additional arms to help it defend against Russia's war, according to multiple reports published on Tuesday.
The possible decision to send what the reports called a "significant number" of tanks to Kyiv comes as Washington and Berlin continue to grapple over the provision of tanks to Ukraine.
Germany has faced mounting pressure to provide its Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine's military, particularly after the UK agreed to send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks.
Ukraine welcomed the UK's decision to send a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks, but said that it was not enough to meet its battlefield needs, appealing in particular to countries with Leopard 2 tanks to send them.
While Germany has so far balked at sending its tanks to Ukraine, it has said that it would not prevent Poland from doing so if it chooses. Countries who have purchased the tanks from Germany must receive a sign-off from Berlin if they are to re-export them.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told US lawmakers last week that his government would not approve of sending the Leopard 2's to Ukraine unless the US first agreed to supply its M1 Abrams tanks, according to the Politico news website.
The US is now considering sending up to 50 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the Politico news website reported. A decision could come as soon as this week.
The Pentagon repeatedly declined to confirm or deny the reports when asked about them by journalists on Tuesday, but said it remains in close contact with Ukraine and other international partners to address "Ukraine's most pressing security assistance requirements."
Spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder reiterated concerns the Defense Department expressed last week that the Abrams tanks are "a complex weapon system that is challenging to maintain," citing in particular their need for jet fuel, hefty maintenance requirements and the significant training needed to operate them.