For the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US is providing Kyiv with the types of high-power capabilities some Biden administration officials viewed as too much of an escalation risk a few short weeks ago.
The new weapons package represents the starkest sign to date that the war in Ukraine is shifting – and with it the weapons Ukraine will need if it hopes to continue to stymie a Russian military that has regrouped and resupplied after its initial failures in the opening weeks of the war.
The $800 million list is driven not only by direct requests from Ukraine, but also in preparation for a new type of fight on the open plains of southeast Ukraine right next to Russia, terrain that plays into Russia’s natural military advantages.
The Biden administration announced the new package included 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had initially been earmarked for Afghanistan, 18 155 mm Howitzer cannons and 300 more Switchblade drones, in addition to radar systems capable of tracking incoming fire and pinpointing its origin.
Biden delivered the news of the assistance package during a 58-minute phone call with Zelensky from the Oval Office on Wednesday. There was one item Zelensky asked Biden for directly: Mi-17 helicopters. According to a source familiar, the helicopters had initially not been included in the package as of Tuesday night because US officials weren’t clear on whether the Ukrainians wanted or needed them at this time. Zelensky made clear to the President on Wednesday that they did.
As a sign of the coordination on assistance to Ukraine, the European Union announced it would provide another $544 million in aid on the same day the White House authorized its own $800 million. (more)
Here is the full equipment list included in the latest $800-million drawdown, as published by the Defense Department:
–18 155mm Howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds;
–Ten AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars;
–Two AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air surveillance radars;
–300 Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
–500 Javelin missiles and thousands of other anti-armor systems;
–200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
–100 Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
–11 Mi-17 helicopters;
–Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels;
–Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment;
–30,000 sets of body armor and helmets;
–Over 2,000 optics and laser rangefinders;
–C-4 explosives and demolition equipment for obstacle clearing; and
–M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions configured to be consistent with the Ottawa Convention.
Kirby said the United States has now committed more than $3.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including approximately $2.6 billion just since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on February 24th.