Biden announces biggest Ukraine arms package yet
US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the US will send an additional $2.98 billion worth of weapons to Kiev. In an announcement coinciding with Ukraine’s Independence Day, Biden said that the US envisions Kiev fighting for some time to come.
According to a White House statement, Ukraine will receive “air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term.”
On Tuesday, US officials told the Associated Press, Reuters and CBS that the package would include at least three different drone systems, such as the hand-launched Puma drone, the longer-range ScanEagle surveillance vehicle, as well as the UK-made Vampire drone, which has not previously been provided to Kiev.
Referencing Ukraine’s independence day, which celebrates its split from the Soviet Union in 1991, Biden said that “today is not only a celebration of the past, but a resounding affirmation that Ukraine proudly remains – and will remain – a sovereign and independent nation.” Given his vow to support the Ukrainian military “over the long term,” and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s declaration on Tuesday that the alliance would back Kiev “for as long as it takes,” Biden evidently plans for the conflict to be a long one.
However, several US media outlets reported on Tuesday that the contents of Wednesday’s arms package may not reach the battlefield for months or even years. Unnamed US officials told the Associated Press that Washington expects Ukrainian forces “to fight for years to come.”
Bankrolling the Ukrainian military has been a costly endeavor for the US. With the American economy wracked by inflation and rising energy costs, the Biden administration has thus far committed more than $54 billion in military and economic aid to Kiev since February.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, Russia continues to advance on Ukrainian positions in the south of the country and on the borders of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, where Kiev has spent the last eight years building a network of bunkers and fortifications. While Ukraine does not publish casualty figures, President Vladimir Zelensky said earlier this summer that 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers were being killed in Donbass on a daily basis, with another 500 injured.