By Raphael Satter
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American lawmakers on Sunday pushed the U.S. government to export M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, saying that even sending a symbolic number to Kyiv would be enough to push European allies to do the same.
Michael McCaul, the newly installed Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC's "This Week" that "just one" Abrams tank would be enough to prompt allies, notably Germany, to unlock their own tank inventories for the fight against Russia.
"Even saying that we're going to put Abrams tanks in would be enough," he said.
Ukrainian officials have been calling on Western allies for months to supply them with modern tanks as the country fights against a full-scale Russian invasion.
Britain recently announced it was supplying 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, but the real prize are Germany's Leopard 2 heavy tanks, which Ukraine's allies are in a position to supply. Pressure has been mounting on Berlin for weeks to send some of its Leopards to Ukraine or at least approve their transfer from third countries.
But Germany appears to have tied any such contribution to a U.S. move to send its own Abrams tanks, something American officials have said they are reluctant to do because the vehicles are complicated to maintain. Democratic Senator Chris Coons told ABC that it was time to set aside those concerns.
"If it requires our sending some Abrams tanks to unlock getting the Leopard tanks from Germany, from Poland, from other allies I would support that," he said.
"I respect that our military leaders think the Abrams is too sophisticated, too expensive a platform to be as useful as the Leopards, but we need to continue to work with our close allies and move forward in lock step."
(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)