Biden reveals 0 million security package for Ukraine

Biden reveals $800 million security package for Ukraine

President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday that the United States will send his nation an additional $800 million worth of weapons, ammunition and other security assistance.

This comes as US officials warn of a potentially bloody new phase in the ongoing war, centered in Ukraine’s eastern regions as Russia withdraws its troops from the area around the capital, Kyiv.

“The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we are providing to devastating effect. As Russia prepares to intensify its attack in the Donbas region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden detailed the new announcement in a midday phone call with Zelensky that lasted about an hour.

“Continued constant dialogue with @POTUS. Assessed Russian war crimes. Discussed additional defensive and possible macro-financial aid package. Agreed to enhance sanctions,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

The United States will provide Ukraine with 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 300 Switchblade drones, 18 howitzers and protective gear to protect against chemical attacks in the latest batch of security assistance approved by the White House, the Pentagon announced. In addition, the new weapons package includes 200 M113 armored personnel carriers, 10 counter artillery radars, 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles, and 30,000 sets of bulletproof vests and helmets.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the $800 million package was intended to “meet Ukraine’s urgent needs for today’s fight” as Russian forces shifted the focus of their attack eastward. and southern Ukraine. He said weapons would start shipping to Ukraine “as soon as possible,” noting that previous security assistance had been sent in as little as four or five days after the security packages were approved.

On Tuesday night, two sources said the helicopters had been removed from the attendance list, though Biden said in his statement that they were eventually included. Ukraine had initially asked the White House at the last minute not to send the helicopters, saying they wanted more time to assess whether they would be useful. But during Wednesday’s phone call, Zelensky told Biden his country needed them, so they were put back in the package, a source familiar with the matter said.

The Mi-17 helicopters added to the package were destined for Afghanistan, Kirby said.

The $800 million shipment brings the total amount of US military assistance to Ukraine to more than $3 billion. Ukraine’s defense budget for 2020 was only about $6 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In less than two months, the US has provided nearly half of that in security assistance, underscoring the pace at which the White House has worked to ship weapons and equipment.

The delivery of previous packages was still being completed when the new one was announced. The United States expects a remaining number of the first 100 Switchblade drone systems to enter Ukraine “within the next day,” according to a senior US defense official.

The official also said another shipment of US Javelin anti-tank missiles is expected to arrive in Ukraine in the next 24 hours. The United States also helped coordinate two air shipments from two other nations to Ukraine, the official said during an off-camera briefing on Wednesday.

Switchblade drones are small, portable drones that carry warheads and detonate on impact. The smallest model can hit a target up to six miles away, according to the company that produces the drones.

“The steady supply of weapons that the United States and its allies and partners have provided to Ukraine has been instrumental in sustaining its fight against the Russian invasion. It has helped ensure that Putin fails in his initial war goals of conquering and controlling Ukraine. We we cannot rest now. As I assured President Zelenskyy, the American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom,” Biden wrote in a statement.

The Pentagon was still working out how US forces will train the Ukrainians on some of the new systems they are sending in the security assistance package.

“We’re still looking at what those options are going to be like, what that training is going to be like, how many US troops are going to be in it, where it’s going to be, how long,” Kirby said at a briefing with reporters.

He said the US could train the Ukrainians on the new systems “very, very quickly,” and would likely do so by training a small number of Ukrainian troops who could then train others, including Switchblade drones, some of the that were sent in a previous support package.

The new tranche of money for Ukraine comes as the Pentagon hosted the CEOs of eight major military contractors on Wednesday to figure out how to arm Ukraine faster, according to a readout of the classified meeting.

The roundtable, led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, focused on the Pentagon’s goals of continuing to supply weapons to Ukraine while maintaining the readiness of US forces and supporting the defense of allies.

The Pentagon sought to better understand the challenges defense contractors face in quickly producing weapons and equipment that have proven critical to Ukraine’s defense, according to the reading.

On Tuesday, a defense industry official told Citizen Free Press that major weapons manufacturers face serious supply chain problems and a lack of affordable labor. Manufacturing capacity could face additional challenges as contracts from Ukraine compete with increased US defense spending for current production, the official said.

Wednesday’s classified roundtable was intended in part to address those concerns in a series of ongoing discussions between the Pentagon and the biggest weapons manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics. But he focused primarily on the goal of “accelerating production” of weapons for Ukraine, including systems that can be shipped quickly and used effectively with minimal training.

A senior defense official said Wednesday that massive arms shipments to Ukraine have not affected the readiness of US forces. The official called it “wise” to have the discussions “before it becomes a crisis issue for our own preparation.”

Ben Oakley
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