US sending Ukraine first weapons package since December

US sending Ukraine first weapons package since December

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced it will send Ukraine a new emergency military aid package worth $300 million, the first such weapons tranche Washington has sent an increasingly desperate Kyiv since late December.

“Ukrainian troops have fought bravely are fighting bravely throughout this war, but they are now forced to ration their ammunition under pressure on multiple fronts, and we’re already seeing the effects on the battlefield,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House.

“When Russian troops advance and its guns fire, Ukraine does not have enough ammunition to fire back. That’s costing terrain, it’s costing lives and it’s costing us the United States and NATO Alliance strategically,” he added.

“So today, on behalf of President Biden, I’m announcing an emergency package of security assistance to $300 worth of weapons and Ukraine’s pressing needs.”

The United States hasn’t been able to pledge lethal aid to Ukraine since Dec. 27, when it announced a last package worth up to $250 million. While some weapons and equipment continue to trickle into the country, additional dollars for Kyiv remain barred by Republican leaders in Congress.

The Pentagon was able to construct the package using credits refunded to the Defense Department for recent weapons buys, two senior defense officials told reporters ahead of the announcement.

“Given the battlefield situation, [President Biden], [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] and others are concerned about what’s happening and were looking to see if there was anything we could do,” one official explained. “As that discussion was ongoing, savings were starting to come in, which has happened before and may happen again.”

The second defense official pointed to savings found through recent bulk buy negotiations, such as with 25 mm ammunition, which was initially estimated to cost $130 each but ended up only $93 per unit.

But the first official also stressed that while the savings will “help square the circle” of new funding for Ukraine as it struggles through winter fighting, this is “a bit of an ad hoc or one time shot.”

“We don’t know if or when future savings will come in, and we certainly can’t count on this as a way of doing business,” they said, pushing the House to act and allow a vote on Biden’s supplemental request.

Since October, the Biden administration has pressed Congress to pass a $105 billion supplemental spending bill that includes a significant chunk of military aid for Ukraine. Republican leadership in the House, however, have refused to hold a vote on the legislation.

The Senate did manage to pass a $95 billion foreign aid package last month with help from 22 Republicans, but House conservatives have outright rejected the bill, with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) refusing to bring it to the floor.

House Democrats on Tuesday launched an effort to force a vote on Ukraine aid, which would require some Republicans to support the legislation over the objection of the GOP leaders.

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