The Defense Department is again tapping into U.S. military stock to send Ukraine another $275 million in weapons and ammunition, even as the Biden administration this week announced a plan to safeguard and account for munitions sent to help Kyiv in its fight against Russian invaders.
On Friday, the Pentagon announced the 24th drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment for Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration. The latest support package will bring the total U.S. military assistance for Ukraine to more than $18.5 billion, officials said.
“The capabilities we are delivering are carefully calibrated to make the most difference on the battlefield for Ukraine today,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Friday in a statement.
The new shipments were announced even as the administration was dealing with the first visible cracks in strong bipartisan support for Ukraine in the war. Progressive Democrats released — and then retracted — a letter earlier this week pressing the White House for direct talks with Moscow on a deal to end the war, just days after House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned his party would not be signing a “blank check” to Mr. Biden for Ukraine aid in the future.
The latest drawdown includes additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that have been a crucial factor in countering Russian troops on the battlefield. The package also includes 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds; 2,000 remote anti-armor mines; more than 1,300 anti-armor systems: 125 Humvees and more than 2.75 million rounds of small arms ammunition, Pentagon officials said.
With Russia accelerating a campaign of drone and cruise missile attacks on cities and power plants, U.S. officials said supplying Ukraine with adequate air defense capabilities has been a priority. The initial shipment of medium-range missile defense systems promised to Ukraine, known as NASAMS, will be ready for delivery to Ukraine early next month, Pentagon officials said.
“The United States is working with our allies to transfer air defense systems of their own to Ukraine,” Defense Department officials said. “To meet Ukraine’s evolving battlefield requirements, the United States will continue to work with its allies and partners to provide Ukraine with key capabilities.”
The State Department this week announced a plan to counter the illicit diversion of advanced conventional weapons in Eastern Europe. It includes efforts to safeguard and account for arms and ammo in Ukraine and in neighboring countries; enhance regional border management and security; help countries build up sufficient security forces and border control agencies to detect and interdict arms smuggling.
“The Ukrainian government has committed to appropriately safeguarding and accounting for transferred defense equipment,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday. “As in any conflict, we remain vigilant to the possibility that criminal and non-state actors may attempt to illicitly acquire weapons from sources in Ukraine, including members of the Russian military, during or following the conflict.”