The new weapons package is a clear sign that war is changing in Ukraine – Ukraine will need weapons in the early weeks to continue to disarm and re-deploy Russian troops after its initial defeats. Of war.
The Biden administration announced that the new package would include 11 Mi-17 helicopters initially assigned to Afghanistan, 18 155 mm howitzer artillery and a further 300 switch blade drones, radar systems capable of monitoring incoming fire and accurately detecting its appearance.
This package stands apart in part from previous defense assistance because this installment contains more sophisticated and heavier weapons than previous exports. A U.S. official tells CNN by design that Russia, which failed to capture Kyiv, has changed its strategy of concentrating troops in eastern Ukraine, arguing that the United States is changing its own strategy of giving to Ukraine.
“The counters they need are very different,” the U.S. official said.
The newly approved package was announced just days after National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and General Mark Millie, head of the Coalition, spent more than two hours reviewing requests over the phone with their Ukrainian counterparts. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also spoke twice last week with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksi Resnikov. Resnikov gave an update on the ground situation, which allowed Austin to determine the most needed weapons for Ukraine.
During a 58-minute phone call with Zhelensky from the Oval Office on Wednesday, Biden broke the news of the aid package. There was one item that Zhelensky heard directly from Biden: Mi-17 helicopters. According to a well-known source, the helicopters were not initially included in the package until Tuesday night, as US officials were not clear on whether the Ukrainians wanted or needed them at this time. Zhelensky made it clear to the president on Wednesday.
‘A little Kansas model’
The weapons provided are centered on the type of fighting that may take place in the Donbass region – open terrain rather than close combat in urban and jungle areas around Kiev and other Ukrainian cities. The region borders southwestern Russia, allowing Russian forces to avoid a variety of stability, logistics and communications problems that have prevented their entire invasion of the country from the outset.
Pentagon Secretary of State John Kirby said Wednesday that the package was designed to fit into the fighting in Donbass, which he described as “a little like Kansas”.
“It’s a little flattering. It’s a little more open. And this is where we can expect the Russians to reach some of their targets before they do tanks and long-range fire, artillery and rocket fire. Ground forces,” Kirby said.
Kirby added that the new weapons package was “an attempt to give the Ukrainians every possible advantage in this coming battle.”
The Biden administration has faced bilateral pressure in calls to help Ukraine, especially in sending more powerful weapons. But the administration has been resisting for weeks, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin will respond with his already-deployed forces. The Kremlin has warned that this could be a sign of an escalation or US involvement in the fighting.
The problem was most acutely felt by the MiG-29 fighter jets requested by Ukraine. Rejecting Poland’s proposal, the administration refused to participate in the transfer of Soviet-era jets from a third country to Ukraine via the United States.
The United States is concerned, Kirby said on March 9, “Now the replacement of warplanes may be mistaken by Mr. Putin and the Russians as an extension measure.” Much of the domestic concern was over the proposal to fly from a NATO air base into Ukraine.
Now the rhetoric of the Biden administration seems to have changed with the intent of the war. As the United States prepares to export non-essential weapons since the beginning of the invasion, the Pentagon has insisted that Ukraine be part of a “commitment” from the outset to help defend itself.
“How can it be explained by the Russians – you can ask Mr. Putin and the Kremlin,” Kirby said Wednesday.
‘Very fast somewhere else’
For weeks, Zhelensky begged world leaders for more weapons and equipment. In March, he spoke to the parliaments of 17 countries and three international organizations. He never deviated from his key message that Ukraine needed more weapons.
He called on Congress to set up new air defense systems to protect Ukraine’s skies. He demanded 1% of NATO tanks and aircraft to fight Russian forces. He also sought more weapons from Belgium, warning that if Ukraine lost, the EU would lose.
But his calls for a heavy firefighter were often unanswered. Most countries sent small arms ammunition, anti-armor missiles and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as defense and medical equipment.
Now, the tide is turning as Russian forces prepare for a major offensive in the Donbas region.
“The envelope for what people are willing to offer has grown significantly over the past two weeks,” the U.S. official said. As soon as the Ukrainian forces were able to stop the Russian invasion for the first few days, it put the options for security assistance “elsewhere very quickly.”
Slovakia supplies S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. The Czech Republic sent T-72 tanks. The United Kingdom has announced it will send 120 armored vehicles to Ukraine. Now the United States has recognized many new and more powerful weapons.
The European Union (EU) has announced a further $ 544 million in aid to Ukraine on the same day that the White House approved its own $ 800 million as a mark of solidarity.
The Pentagon says it works as quickly as possible
The package, announced Wednesday, was the first US supply of Howitzer artillery to Ukraine. Kirby said many systems would require additional training for Ukrainians to use them, including howitzers and counter-artillery radars.
Many of the weapons aimed at Ukraine are heavy, making them very difficult to carry across the country. Ukraine has been collecting weapons supplied to date from the United States and other countries on its western border before moving to forces across the country.
Kirby said the Pentagon knew “time is not our friend” when Russia was preparing for its next attack, but was working to move equipment quickly into Ukrainian hands:
“Even before this was announced, all the security assistance we provided was moving very, very fast, apparently at an unprecedented rate.”
CNN’s Barbara Starr and Alex Marquardt contributed to the report.