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US announces $1.2B Ukraine aid package ahead of counteroffensive

The Biden administration on Tuesday pledged a massive $1.2 billion chunk of long-term military assistance to Ukraine as the embattled country readies a counteroffensive that could alter the course of the war. 

The aid will include weapons seen as Ukraine’s “most urgent requirements,” including air defense systems and munitions. The package will also provide equipment that Ukraine’s Armed Forces need “to defend its territory and deter Russian aggression over the long term,” the Pentagon said in a statement. 

The United States will provide the assistance under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, meaning it will purchase weapons from partners or defense contractors to then be delivered to Ukraine over the coming months or years — rather than pulling weapons directly from Pentagon stocks.  

The newest weapons tranche will focus mainly on bolstering Ukrainian air defenses, a dwindling resource for Kyiv, according to U.S. intelligence documents leaked last month. The secret material warned that Ukraine was running out of the weapons to keep Russian attack jets and helicopters away from ground forces. 

Such weapons are critical as Russia continues to pound the country with rockets, surface-to-air missiles and drones; Ukraine’s air defenses shot down 35 Iranian-made drones over Kyiv late Sunday night into Monday, according to officials. 

The new package will fund additional air defense systems and munitions, ammunition for counter-unmanned aerial systems, 155 mm artillery rounds and equipment to help modify Western air-defense launchers, missiles and radars to be used with Ukraine’s systems. It will also buy satellite imagery services and support ongoing training and maintenance, according to the Pentagon. 

With this latest package, Washington has now given Kyiv nearly $37 billion in lethal aid since Russia first attacked in February 2022. 

American and NATO allies have been pouring artillery and ammunition into Ukraine ahead of the upcoming spring battle. The weapons are seen as crucial for a decisive Ukrainian victory, as without one, Western support for Kyiv could weaken and send the conflict into a protracted battle with no end in sight.  

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, predicted this week that U.S. military and economic assistance will continue to flow into Ukraine despite calls from some in his party for the United States to pull back from the war.  

“I do think that we have enough support within Congress to sustain this for a good deal longer,” McConnell said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “All the leadership in the House and Senate in my party is very much in favor of defeating the Russians.”  

Source: The Hill

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