The United States will send more than $1 billion in weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine amid the country’s ongoing war with Russia, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday afternoon.
Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday morning to reaffirm the United States’ support for the war-torn nation, promising to “stand by Ukraine as it defends its democracy, and support its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression.”
In addition to artillery and ammunition, the U.S. will deliver coastal defense weapons and advanced rocket systems to assist the country’s defensive forces in the eastern Donbas region. Altogether, the security assistance will cost $1 billion.
Another $225 million from the U.S. will be directed toward assisting those inside Ukraine, supplying safe drinking water, medical supplies, health care, food, shelter and money for families to buy necessary items.
The latest tranche of aid for the first time includes two Harpoon anti-ship missile systems, as well as 18 additional M777 Howitzers and the tactical vehicles to tow them plus 36,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced during a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
Other countries have provided coastal defense systems to Ukraine, including several Harpoon systems from Denmark. But this is the first time the U.S. is sending the weapons, which Ukrainian officials say are crucial to countering attacks from Russia’s fleet in the Black Sea.
The U.S. will provide a vehicle-mounted launcher that, married up with Harpoons provided by allies, will be able to fire the missiles from the shore to defend against Russia’s fleet, a senior defense official told reporters after the announcement.
The Pentagon will issue a contract with industry for the new configuration in the coming months, a second senior defense official said. The proposal was one of 1,300 submitted by the defense industry in response to the Defense Department’s solicitation for new systems that would meet Ukraine’s artillery needs, the official said.
“The Harpoon is intended for coastal defense,” the second official said. “We’ve seen the negative impacts the Russian blockade has had, and continued … Ukrainian fears about Russia targeting Odessa and other critical ports around the Black Sea. So this is a capability that provides them significantly stronger deterrence.”
Germany will also provide three Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and guided munitions, adding to the three MLRS units from the U.K. and four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems from the U.S., Austin said. The three countries are now “working shoulder to shoulder” in training the Ukrainians to operate the artillery as quickly as possible, he added.
The U.S. will deliver the HIMARS, along with fully trained Ukrainian crews, for “operational use” on the battlefield at the end of the month, Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during the briefing.
Ukrainian officials have been clamoring for additional weaponry as Russian forces advance relentlessly in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Zelenskyy has warned that without additional western aid, eastern Ukraine will soon fall.
While the HIMARS is not “a silver bullet,” Milley noted that, if used correctly, it will make a difference on the battlefield. The top Defense Department officials insisted they are working around the clock to get Kyiv the help it needs.
“We are supporting the Ukrainian military as rapidly as is humanly possible,” Milley said.
While a Russian win in the Donbas is not “an inevitability,” Milley noted that “the numbers clearly favor the Russians. In terms of artillery, in terms of the numbers, they outgun and outrange.”
He also confirmed that Ukraine is losing in the ballpark of 100-200 soldiers per day in the fight.
Since Russia launched its assault in late February, the U.S. has provided $5.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, said at the daily White House press briefing on Wednesday. In total, the administration has sent $6.3 billion to the country since Biden took office.
More than $914 million has been dedicated to humanitarian assistance alone for those in Ukraine and those who have fled, Kirby said.
Biden’s latest announcement of aid comes a month after the Senate approved a $40 billion emergency aid package to fortify Ukraine with weapons and other military assistance. And in April, Biden announced an $800 million security assistance package for Ukraine, which included heavy artillery weapons, tactical drones and 144,000 rounds of ammunition, along with $500 million in humanitarian aid to the country.
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