WASHINGTON – Just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an emotional plea to the U.S. Congress for more military aid, President Joe Biden laid out a wide range of weapons and equipment that America will provide to help Ukraine beat back the Russian invasion.
The new $800 million aid package centers on weapons that the Ukrainian military has already been using effectively against the Russians. And it includes air defense systems urgently needed to defend cities from the overwhelming barrage of missiles being launched by Russian forces.
A key element of that was Biden's vow to help Ukraine get long-range air defense systems that aren't made in America — a likely reference to the Russian-made S-300s or similar surface-to-air missile systems which other NATO nations in Eastern Europe have. Such systems are highly effective and can shoot down aircraft and intercept ballistic missiles.
A senior defense official said Wednesday that the U.S. will provide the Ukrainians with systems that they know how to use, that they’re already trained and equipped to use, and that they are using with effect. Those include air defense systems that allies and partners possess and might be willing to send to Ukraine, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be in Slovakia on Thursday and is expected to discuss this issue with officials there.
Left off the list for Ukraine were two things that Zelenskyy has repeatedly requested, but the U.S. and NATO have firmly rejected: Russian made MiG-29 fighter jets funneled to Ukraine via the U.S., and the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The West believes that doing either could trigger a wider war with Russia.
Stephen Biddle, a professor of international affairs at Columbia University, said that although there is risk in providing Ukraine with weapons, it entails less risk than allowing NATO territory to be used for flying MiG fighters into Ukraine or for enforcing a no-fly zone. He noted that Germany did not attack the United States to prevent tanks, bombers and other weaponry from reaching Britain under the Lend Lease program in the years of World War II.
“Nothing about the Ukraine war is risk-free -- the issue is now balancing risks that cannot be avoided,” Biddle said. “The more lethal the arms we transfer the greater the risk, but there is also risk in allowing Putin to steamroller Ukraine.”
A look at what the U.S. is sending, according to the White House.
NEWLY PROMISED WEAPONS AND EQUIPMENT
— 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems
— 2,000 surface-to-air Javelin missiles, which can be shoulder-launched or fired from a launcher
— 1,000 light anti-armor weapons
— 6,000 AT-4 portable anti-tank weapons
— 100 Tactical unmanned systems, which offcials have said is the Switchblade, which is a small, so-called kamikaze drone, that explodes on impact.
— 100 grenade launchers
— 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns, and 400 shotguns;
— More than 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds;
— 25,000 sets of body armor and helmets
MILITARY EQUIPMENT ALREADY DELIVERED OR PROMISED
The U.S. has already delivered or promised $1.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. That includes:
— Over 600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems
— About 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems
— Five Mi-17 helicopters
— Three patrol boats
— Four counter-artillery and counter-unmanned aerial system tracking radars
— Four counter-mortar radar systems
— 200 grenade launchers and ammunition
— 200 shotguns and 200 machine guns
— Nearly 40 million rounds of small arms ammunition and over 1 million grenade, mortar, and artillery rounds
— 70 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and other vehicles
— Secure communications, electronic warfare detection systems, body armor, helmets, and other tactical gear
— Military medical equipment to support treatment and combat evacuation
— Explosive ordnance disposal and demining equipment
— Satellite imagery and analysis capability