US looks for ways to get heavy Soviet weaponry to Ukraine – media
The US State Department has been seeking American allies who have Soviet S-300 air defense systems as it explores various options of supplying Ukraine with heavier arms, CNN reported on Tuesday. Last week, a plan to deliver MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine stalled after Washington refused to act as an intermediary in the process.
The White House has been increasingly pressured by Congress, which demands Washington supply Kiev with heavier weapons amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine, CNN reported, citing some unnamed sources.
“The State Department has been working to identify which countries currently have the Soviet-made S-300 air defense systems and is examining how they could be transferred to Ukraine,” the media outlet reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called on western nations to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine or provide Ukraine with military aircraft and air defense systems as the conflict unfolds.
A Republican Senate aide told CNN the lawmakers should “urge” the White House to identify “allies and partners” not just in Europe but “around the globe” that could hand over their “S-300 or other advanced air defense systems” to Ukraine in exchange for the US “backfilling” their own capabilities.
Washington initially struggled with the idea of the need to backfill some other nations’ defense capabilities in exchange for military aid to Ukraine. However, according to CNN, that is not an issue now, as Congress passed a $1.5 trillion spending bill last week. The bill specifically included $13 billion aimed for a “response” to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
US lawmakers also appear to increasingly favor the idea of supplying Ukraine with air defense systems instead of planes now, as the plan to send Poland’s Soviet-made MiG-29 jets to Ukraine has been stalled due to Washington’s fear of a direct confrontation with Moscow.
Sources familiar with the status of America’s arms deliveries to Ukraine have told CNN that most weapons approved for Ukraine as part of a $350 million package Washington greenlit in late February have been delivered.
Over the weekend, the Biden administration approved an additional $200 million package, mostly including Javelin anti-armor missiles and Stinger surface-to-air missiles, the media outlet added.
However, some sources have also admitted to CNN that NATO has “very little idea” about just how many arms get into the hands of the Ukrainian army due to a complicated and untransparent delivery system.
The shipments of arms are “deliberately” arranged between individual nations and then directly with Ukraine to absolve the military bloc from any responsibility over the process, CNN has said. The nations had also been told to not even discuss the shipments with each other to minimize the potential chance of information leaks that could be somehow used by Moscow.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
The US and its allies have reacted to the development by slapping Moscow with unprecedented sanctions and offering generous military aid to Ukraine. Apart from the US, Germany, the Netherlands and some other European nations also offered weapons to Ukraine. Most military assistance packages include small arms, anti-tank missiles, and surface-to-air missiles, as well as munitions and fuel.