Saturday, May 25, 2024

US announces $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine

The U.S. Defense Department announced a $1 billion package for Ukraine shortly after President Joe Biden signed a national security supplemental into law, aiming to deliver critical artillery rounds and air defense munitions to Kyiv in the war with Russia.

The $1 billion price tag is much higher than previous packages that have generally totaled around a few hundred million dollars, in part because Congress delayed sending more aid to Ukraine for months after the last U.S. assistance dried up at the end of 2023. That made Ukraine more desperate for aid as ammunition ran low and Russia pressed forward on the battlefield, putting Ukrainian troops on the backfoot.

A key part of the new package is 155 mm artillery rounds and other mortar and artillery ammunition, along with RIM-7 and AIM-9M air defense munitions. Kyiv has made both a priority, with artillery a major part of covering Ukrainian troops on the ground and air defenses crucial to defending cities.

Wednesday’s package includes Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor launchers, small arms ammunition like .50 caliber rounds and munitions for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.

And Ukraine will get Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, Humvees and other logistical and tactical vehicles, along with anti-armor mines, demolition material and other spare parts and equipment.

Notably, the package does not include the long-range artillery weapon called the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which can strike targets up to 190 miles away. The Biden administration has provided older versions of the ATACMS but not a newer model.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this week that he called Biden and there was an agreement to provide ATACMS, but he did not provide greater details, including when they might be delivered.

After signing the $95 billion national security package into law, about $61 billion of which will go to supporting Ukraine, Biden said it was a “good day for world peace”.

“Americans are going to send Ukraine the supplies they need to keep them in the fight,” he stated, promising to start sending equipment within hours.

“This package is literally an investment in not only Ukraine’s security but in Europe’s security, in our own security.”

Zelensky expressed his thanks after the Senate cleared the package Tuesday night, just days after the House. On Wednesday, Zelensky said the “key now is speed”.

“Every leader who does not waste time is a life saver,” he wrote on social platform X., adding,“Every state that knows how to act quickly safeguards the rules-based world order.”

Even with the new weapons package, Ukraine will face an uphill battle against a larger Russian military, which has seized the initiative amid the delay of U.S. assistance to hammer the Ukrainians across the 600-mile eastern front line and press forward in the Donetsk region.

But the weapons will help to stabilize the front, where Russian forces have taken at least one city and are threatening another strategic one in the eastern Donetsk region.

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