Dear President Biden:
This is an urgent message.
Send our M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. And do it soon. You have about 5,000 of them. Ukrainian forces say they need 500. Surely you can spare some. Maybe 250 or so? Maybe that will stimulate Germany and Poland to send their Leopard 2 tanks. Together they can play a major role in helping turn the tide of battle.
And don’t listen to your senior aides when they give you a lot of excuses why it cannot be done. “They use jet fuel and only get 3 mpg. They are too hard to maintain. It will take too long to train Ukrainian troops to use them.”
Please remember, Mr. President, that you have 10,000 troops stationed in Poland right now. Surely among those forces are resources to train Ukrainian soldiers how to operate the M1s and to maintain them.
The negative excuses sound like a cover up for fear and timidity. “Oh, if we send tanks to Ukraine Mr. Putin will step up his efforts to crush the Ukrainian people. And he will take his war to the rest of Europe.”
The facts do not bear this out. Vladimir Putin is on the ropes and this is the time Ukrainian troops should strike him with the strongest force possible
He needs to be stopped now and he can be. Consider his panicky efforts to enlarge his armed forces. Throwing youngsters into the front lines with little training. Opening jails and giving prisoners freedom in exchange for military service. Allowing a mercenary force—the Wagner Group—to have a free hand in its private war against Ukraine. Changing battlefield leadership frequently. Running low on ammunition. Suffering much greater losses of men and equipment than he ever could have believed possible.
You were born in November, 1942, a little more than two years after President Franklin Roosevelt announced support of Great Britain in its fight with Hitler.
The war was going badly for Britain. They had lost eleven destroyers to the Germans in a ten-day period. Prime Minister Winston Churchill begged President Franklin Roosevelt for help. The two concluded a deal in which the United States sent 50 destroyers to England in exchange for use of British naval bases in the Caribbean and Newfoundland. That action led later, in March, 1941, to legislation on Roosevelt’s creative Lend-Lease program in which the United States pledged money and material to countries fighting against the Axis governments. And he succeeded in accomplishing this while faced with an isolationist Congress and citizens leery of doing anything that might cause the United States to become involved in a European war.
Roosevelt’s courage in standing up to Hitler by supporting Britain, became a key element in his legacy. In the face of Congressional opposition, he had demonstrated presidential leadership overflowing with creativity, perseverance and persuasive power.
You, sir, already have demonstrated leadership in supporting Ukraine and rallying others to do the same. But there is much more to be done.
The majority of Americans still favor sending material support to Ukraine. Negative rumblings about decreasing aid to Ukraine already are emerging from the new Congress.
Now is the time to act, Mr. President. Send in the M1 Abrams tanks.
Ross Jones is a former vice president and secretary emeritus of The Johns Hopkins University. He joined the University in 1961 as assistant to President Milton S. Eisenhower. A 1953 Johns Hopkins graduate, he later earned a Master’s Degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.