The U.S. has approved a new $2.5 billion weapons package for Ukraine, which includes sending Strykers and more Bradley vehicles, while no deal has emerged in response to Kyiv’s request for Abrams tanks or Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks.

The new security assistance deal was announced ahead of the latest Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, with officials from 54 countries gathering at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to discuss efforts to assist Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s ongoing invasion.

German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius, (left) U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (middle) and Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, right, attend the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 20, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

“Today’s meeting focused on Ukraine’s needs for air defense and armor. We also pushed hard on how to synchronize those donations and turn them into fully-operational capabilities. And that means every step from donation to training to maintenance and then to sustainment. We also focused hard on how our collective and individual training efforts would be prosecuted,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a press briefing following the meeting.

The U.S.’ new weapons aid package, the 30th drawdown from existing Pentagon inventories, includes 59 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles with 590 TOW anti-tank missiles and 295,000 rounds of 25mm ammunition, 53 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, 350 Humvees, and includes the first delivery of Stryker armored personnel carriers, with plans to provide 90 of the vehicles.

The deal also covers eight Avenger air defense systems, additional munitions for NASAMS air defense systems and HIMARS launchers, 12 ammunition support vehicles, six command post vehicles and 22 tactical vehicles to tow weapons.

Ukraine will also receive 20,000 155mm artillery rounds, approximately 600 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds, 95,000 105mm artillery rounds, around 11,800 120mm mortar rounds, High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs), approximately 2,000 anti-armor rockets and over 3,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, according to the Pentagon.

Following the meeting, Austin noted Netherlands plans to provide Patriot missile systems for Ukraine, that Canada has procured a NASAMS systems and associated munitions it will provide. Additionally, he said Denmark detailed plans to deliver 19 howitzers, Latvia is offering Stinger missiles and helicopters and Estonia will provide 155mm howitzers and munitions.

“We’re also pushing hard to meet Ukraine’s requirements for tanks and other armored vehicles. The U.K. has announced a significant donation of Challenger 2 tanks for Ukraine. This is the first introduction of Western main battle tanks into Ukraine. I also commend our British allies for making this decision. And Sweden announced it’s donating CV90 infantry fighting vehicles and an additional donation soon of Archer howitzers,” Austin said. 

Austin, however, was asked several times about the lack of Abrams tanks in the U.S.’ new package and Germany’s reticence to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, with Ukrainian officials having reiterated requests for such platforms over the last several weeks.

“I don’t have any announcement to make on M1s [Abrams tanks]. And you heard the German Minister of Defense say that they’ve not made a decision on Leopard [tanks],” Austin said. “This really isn’t about one single platform. Our goal, and I think we’ve been fairly successful at doing this in bringing together capability, is to provide the capability that Ukraine needs to be successful in the near-term.”

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters on Thursday it “doesn’t make sense” to provide Ukraine with Abrams tanks at the moment due to the maintenance and sustainment considerations associated with the platform (Defense Daily, Jan. 19). 

Austin noted the U.S.’ effort to provide Ukraine with more combat vehicle power in the recent packages, to include the earlier $2.85 billion weapons deal announced on Jan. 6, which included the first commitment of 50 Bradleys for Kyiv (Defense Daily, Jan. 6).

“You’ve heard us talk about two battalions of Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, a very capable platform, [and] three battalions or a brigade’s worth of Strykers. So you add that up, that’s two brigades of combat power that the U.S. is providing along with enablers and other things,” Austin said. “You look at Sweden providing a battalion of CV90s, that’s an armored personnel carrier. The Germans are providing Marder [infantry fighting vehicles]. The Poles are providing a battalion’s worth of mechanized capability.”

Austin, who met with new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in Berlin on Thursday, was also asked about reports that Germany won’t offer its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine unless the U.S. also commits to sending Abrams tanks as part of future security assistance efforts.

“I think you heard the German minister of defense say earlier today that there’s no linkage between providing M1s [Abrams tanks] and providing Leopard [tanks]. And I think he was pretty clear about that. So this notion of unlocking, in my mind, it’s not an issue. And, more importantly, in his mind as well,” Austin responded.

Politico has reported a group of European nations that operate Leopard 2 tanks are looking to press Germany toward allowing them to transfer their platforms to Ukraine.

Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees respectively, issued a joint statement ahead of the new $2.5 billion weapons aid package urging the Biden administration to more urgently transfer capabilities such as longer-range ATACMS missiles for HIMARS launchers to Ukraine.

“The current handwringing and hesitation by the Biden administration and some of our European allies in providing critical weapon systems to Ukraine stinks of the weak policies of 2021, such as not sanctioning Nord Stream 2 or providing U.S.-origin Stingers before the full-scale invasion. While those policies failed to deter this conflict, the current indecision and self-deterrence will prolong it – costing Ukrainian lives. Now is the time for the Biden and [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz governments to follow the lead of our U.K. and Eastern European allies – Leopard 2 tanks, ATACMS, and other long-range precision munitions should be approved without delay,” Rogers and McCaul said.