Mr. Zelensky called on Sunday for NATO allies to provide tanks and planes, in addition to the antitank and antiaircraft weaponry that have become a staple of the arms transfers to Ukraine from the West. Frustrated at what he views as a slow pace of weapons transfers, Mr. Zelensky asked specifically for tanks, in remarks a day after President Biden met with senior Ukrainian officials in Poland.
An angry Mr. Zelensky criticized the West for what he called its “Ping-Pong” about weapons transfers. “I’ve talked to the defenders of Mariupol today,” he said, in a reference to the besieged city that has been under an onslaught from Russia for four weeks. “If only those who have been thinking for 31 days on how to hand over dozens of jets and tanks had 1 percent of their courage.”
In the past, the Biden administration has taken pains to call the weapons it is providing to Ukraine defensive, and has focused on smaller, easily portable arms. But as the war has progressed, the definition of defensive has become more elastic.
Ukraine had already found one source of tanks, capturing at least 161 from Russia on the battlefield, according to the military analysis site Oryx, though Russia has also destroyed a number of Ukrainian tanks. For its part, Russia has captured 43 Ukrainian tanks, according to analysts who study photos and videos on social media.
The decision to help transfer the tanks comes as the Ukrainian military has continued to turn back Russia’s ground advance. Pentagon officials have been quick to point out that Russia’s pivot to Donbas and away from capturing Kyiv, the capital, might be a necessity for Moscow after Russian forces stalled out in the central part of the country.