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U.S. to send Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine

Germany also will send combat vehicles, and a second Patriot missile air defense battery

Two Bradley Fighting Vehicles are parked next to the Lincoln Memorial before President Donald Trump's “Salute to America” event on July 2, 2019, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
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The United States and Germany joined France on Thursday in saying they will send armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, expanding their assistance with new weapons systems that Kyiv has said it needs to help its forces recapture territory locked behind Russian lines.

“Right now the war in Ukraine is at a critical point,” President Biden said at a meeting of his Cabinet. “We have to do everything we can.” He spoke following a telephone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in which they formalized agreement to transfer dozens of U.S.-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles and German Marder infantry fighting vehicles. France announced Wednesday it will send Ukraine an unspecified number of its AMX-10 RC “light tanks.”

In a joint statement, Biden and Scholz said Germany will also transfer an additional Patriot missile air defense battery to Ukraine, adding to the one the United States announced last month.

The decisions mark a new escalation in Western military assistance to Ukraine, and come as Ukrainian forces are seeking to dislodge dug-in Russian occupying forces in the east and south of the country, and as Moscow continues its barrage of missile and drone attacks on energy infrastructure in civilian areas far from the front lines.

Scholz had for months resisted pressure to send the advanced equipment to Ukraine — including calls from within his own governing coalition — saying his government would do so only in lockstep with other NATO members.

The Marders, roughly 100 of which the German defense company Rheinmetall said it could provide after refurbishment, have been a particular source of contention. In April, the government said it needed them for Germany’s own defense, before later indicating it could transfer some to Slovenia, which could in turn send its old Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine.

“This decision comes very late, but not too late,” said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the German parliament’s defense committee, who has been one of the most vocal proponents of sending more heavy arms. The next focus, she said, will be upping pressure to send Germany’s main battle tank, the Leopard.

Armored fighting vehicles are not generally defined as full-fledged tanks, but are considered by some to be more useful to the Ukrainians because they are generally faster, more agile and require less fuel and maintenance.

At the Pentagon, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Defense Department spokesman, said the Bradleys will bring a weapon that can carry infantrymen on the battlefield in both offensive and defensive operations, and provide a “level of armor and firepower” that will give Ukrainian forces advantages in combat. The number of vehicles, the type of armament they will carry, and when they are likely to be delivered is due to be announced Friday.

Although Ukraine has sought the armored vehicles for months, Ryder suggested Thursday that U.S. officials believe only now are Kyiv’s forces ready for them and the operational and maintenance instruction they will require.

The decision, Ryder indicated, also reflected the evolving nature of the war. “Early in this campaign, when Russia was on the doorstep of Kyiv,” he said, it was “a much different situation.”

Morris reported from Berlin.