The Biden administration announced on Wednesday it would provide $1.85 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, deploying funding for the Patriot missile battery.
The White House announcement came just hours before Zelenskiy, on his first known trip outside his country since February, landed at Joint Base Andrews near the capital. The package includes $1 billion worth of weapons and equipment from the Pentagon’s stockpile, including a Patriot battery for the first time, and $850 million in funding from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. Part of USAI will be used to fund a satellite communications system that will likely include Elon Musk’s mission-critical SpaceX Starlink satellite network system.
“As Russia continues its brutal attacks on critical infrastructure in Ukraine, the United States welcomes President Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington, D.C. today to underscore our continued commitment to the people of Ukraine,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement. The US will provide “important new and additional military capabilities to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s ongoing brutal and unprovoked attack.”
Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have been pushing for Western leaders to provide more advanced weapons, including Patriots, to help their country fight Russia. The Patriot will be the most advanced anti-aircraft missile system the West has provided to Ukraine to counter Russian air attacks.
The kit also includes two other key elements. The Pentagon will send an undisclosed number of Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAM, to Ukraine. The kits will be used to modify massive bombs by adding tails and high-precision navigation systems so that they can not just be dropped from a fighter at a target, but dropped and aimed at a target.
The US will also fund terminals and satellite communications services to reinforce Ukraine’s potential vulnerability after Musk said his company could no longer afford to provide services for free. The satellite assistance would serve as insurance against the possibility that Musk would threaten to cut off their funding. Elon Musk sent the first Starlink terminals to Ukraine days after the Russian invasion in February, and as of October, there were over 2,200 low-orbit satellites providing broadband Internet access to Ukraine. In October, he asked the Pentagon to take over the costs of Starlink operations in Ukraine and tweeted that SpaceX is costing SpaceX $20 million a month to support the country’s communications needs.
The system “changed the rules of the game” by allowing the Ukrainian military and infrastructure to continue operating, said John Ferrari, senior fellow and space expert at the American Enterprise Institute. While Wednesday’s funding announcement is about terminals and satellite communications services and doesn’t identify Musk’s company, it will be difficult to get other systems into the battlefield because they often won’t work together, Ferrari said.
The decision to send the Patriot battery was made despite threats from the Russian Foreign Ministry that the delivery of the latest anti-aircraft missile system would be considered a provocative step and that the Patriot and any accompanying crews would become a legitimate target for Russian troops. military.
However, the White House objects to the notion that the delivery of the Patriot is tantamount to an escalation of US intervention in the interests of Ukraine. A senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said Biden had made it clear that his administration would “lean forward” in support of Ukraine but “does not seek direct war with Russia.”
It is not yet clear exactly when the Patriot will arrive on the front lines in Ukraine, as US troops will have to train Ukrainian forces on how to use the high-tech system. The training could take several weeks and is expected to take place at the Grafenwoehr test site in Germany. To date, all training of Ukrainian forces by the US and the West has taken place in European countries.
The aid package also includes additional missiles for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS; 500 precision artillery rounds for howitzers; 30 mortar systems and 10,000 mortar rounds; 37 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAP); 120 Hummers; six armored trucks; more than 2,700 grenade launchers and other weapons, an undisclosed number of air-to-surface HARM anti-radar missiles; Claymore anti-personnel mines; demolition ammunition and other equipment, as well as bulletproof vests.
The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which pays for long-range procurement, will fund more than 200,000 items of various munitions, satellite systems, and ongoing training and maintenance.
it’s 28th a time when the Pentagon took weapons off the shelf to get them quickly to Ukraine, often delivering them within days to Europe and the war. Overall, the US has provided about $21.3 billion worth of military aid and equipment since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
The aid comes as Congress is ready to approve another $44.9 billion in aid to Ukraine as part of a massive spending bill. This ensures US support continues next year and beyond as the Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January. Some GOP lawmakers expressed misgivings about the bailout.