Biden’s Ukraine incompetence made war far bloodier. It’s time to deliver what’s needed to defeat Russia

The Biden administration has finally relented and will send 31 American-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine. This decision is welcome, but it comes too late to help the Ukrainians as they prepare for a renewed Russian onslaught this spring. It illustrates, once again, how President Joe Biden’s half measures have made the war in Ukraine longer and bloodier than it should have been. 

The administration’s decision follows months of foot-dragging and hand wringing. Those who opposed sending tanks to Ukraine made two seemingly contradictory arguments: that American tanks are a dangerous provocation that could lead us into war, but also that they are unsuited to fight in Ukraine. So, which is it? Is the Abrams too powerful, or not powerful enough? 

Truth is, these claims were always excuses for inaction. The Abrams tank was designed during the Cold War to fight the Russians in Europe. If the Abrams is ill-suited to fighting the Russians in Ukraine, it’s hard to think where it is suited to fight. As for concerns about escalation, naysayers have made the same dire predictions each time we’ve sent new weapons to Ukraine. And each time, far from sparking a wider conflict, those new weapons have deterred Russia and prevented it from retaliating. 


The Biden administration only abandoned these excuses when our European allies forced its hand. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, hardly a modern-day Churchill, gave Biden an ultimatum: send your tanks to Ukraine, or we won’t send ours. Germany went so far as to say it wouldn’t allow other European countries to commit German-made tanks to Ukraine if the United States didn’t send its own. 

Faced with the stark choice between no Western tanks for Ukraine or many, Biden wisely and finally made the right choice. But failures of leadership have consequences, and Biden’s tardy decision is no exception. 

American-made tanks won’t be fighting in Ukraine for months, or even years. Tanks need to be shipped thousands of miles, crews need to be trained, and complex logistics systems need to be prepared. As one official told the Washington Post, the tanks we send are “probably not for the near fight.” Unfortunately, that is an understatement. 


Because Biden dithered, Ukrainian troops will face Russian offensives this spring without the benefit of American heavy armor. Imagine instead if Biden had committed tanks and other offensive assets at the beginning of Russia’s invasion, instead of one year later. They might be in the field right now, along with tanks from our European allies. The Ukrainians might be preparing to retake territory, as opposed to bracing for Russia’s next offensive.

Biden’s about-face unfortunately is part of a pattern that has extended and worsened this war at every turn. 

Worst of all, he failed to prevent the war by slow-walking military aid to Kyiv and then provoking Russia with self-defeating attempts at conciliation, including his infamous comment that a “minor incursion” into Ukraine may not be punished by NATO. Biden’s feeble words and deeds, combined with the widespread but false underestimation of Ukraine’s resolve, convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin that he could seize the country at minimal cost. Hundreds of thousands of people have paid for this failure of deterrence with their lives or limbs. 

After Russia’s invasion, Biden’s performance scarcely improved. Ukraine’s requests for new capabilities — whether for long-range artillery, advanced drones, or Patriot missile-defense systems — have been greeted with weeks, if not months, of sweating about whether sending those capabilities would cross Russia’s “red lines.” 

If Ukraine is to win this war, then the United States must break through this decision paralysis and lead. General Douglas MacArthur liked to say that “war’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.” So far, Biden’s approach has been long on indecision and short on victory. 

It’s time to give Ukraine what it needs to throw out the Russian invaders, retake its sovereign territory, and win this war. 


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