The US and its allies have committed well over $4 billion in military aid for Ukraine in recent months, with the conflict becoming an arms bonanza for defence contractors, and a chance for NATO armies to get rid of old inventories. Congress could vote Tuesday to authorise up to $33 billion more in “military and humanitarian” support for Kiev.
Ukraine needs a permanent “mechanism” for coordinated weapons deliveries from Western countries, and expects Washington to complement deliveries of old Soviet-era arms with American-made heavy weapons, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said.
Speaking to the Financial Times on Tuesday, Kuleba said Kiev’s “picture of victory is an evolving concept”, and suggested that winning “the battle for Donbass” could prompt Ukraine to attack Crimea – a predominantly ethnic-Russian peninsula which broke off from Ukraine and rejoined Russia in 2014 in the aftermath of the Euromaidan coup in Kiev.
To this end, the foreign minister suggested that if Kiev were to get “even more military support”, from the West, “we will be able to throw [the Russians] back from the Kherson region, to defeat the Black Sea Fleet and unblock the passage” to the body of water.
Kuleba slammed those Western governments that were slow in delivering long-range artillery and other heavy weaponry, saying that “if the battle is raging today, and howitzers and drones are arriving tomorrow, that is not how it should work”. He said Kiev expects Washington to supply American-made heavy weapons, and not just Soviet-era systems like Grad artillery, and assured that “the promise was given” that this would take place soon – possibly even before the new $33 billion assistance package is approved.
Last month, the US and its allies pledged to up the ante in arms deliveries to Ukraine, promising to complement light weapons like Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles with heavy weapons, such as 155mm howitzers, armoured personnel carriers, Hummers, helicopters, and advanced drones.
The United States alone has committed some $3.8 billion in weapons aid to Ukraine over the past two-and-a-half months, with allies providing hundreds of millions of dollars more. In March, Washington laid out $13.6 billion in combined military and humanitarian support for “responding to the situation in Ukraine”, including $6.5 billion in cash for the Pentagon.
The Biden administration and its allies in Congress are also pushing an additional $33 billion bill for combined military, economic, and humanitarian support to Kiev, with the bill expected to be voted on as early as Tuesday.
On Monday, President Biden signed the “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act” into law. The measure is expected to “streamline” the process of providing Ukraine with military equipment, and, crucially for Washington, provide America with guarantees that Kiev will repay for assistance received at some nebulous later date.
Russia has repeatedly warned the US and its allies about the dangers of weapons deliveries to Ukraine, stressing that the cargoes are considered a legitimate military target for Russian missiles, and that such assistance serves to prolong the conflict, and could even risk a direct confrontation with NATO.