US sends $1 billion more military aid to underarmed Ukraine

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov before a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. NATO defense ministers, attending a two-day meeting from Wednesday, will discuss boosting arms supplies to Ukraine, and Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the alliance transatlantic military. (Yves Herman, Pool Photo via AP)

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The United States has announced it will send an additional $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, as America and its allies provide longer-range weapons it says can make a difference in a combat where the Ukrainian forces are more numerous and less armed than their Russian invaders.

President Joe Biden and his top national security leaders said Wednesday the United States is moving as fast as possible to secure combat-essential weapons, even as Ukrainian officials protest they need more, faster, to survive.

The latest package, the US said, includes anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) on which US forces are currently training Ukrainian troops. . These are all key weapon systems that Ukraine’s leaders have urgently requested as they struggle to block Russia’s slow but steady march to conquer the eastern Donbass region.

“Gen. Milley and I have been in a number of fights. And when you’re in a fight, you can’t get enough,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a press conference in Brussels, referring to General Mark Milley, chairman of the heads of state- joint major.

“I certainly understand where Ukrainians are coming from, and we will fight to give them everything they need.”

HIMARS and anti-ship systems are the kind of longer-range capabilities that, over time, can make a difference in combat, Milley said. He said Ukraine would have trained the HIMARS crews for combat in a few weeks.

“If they use the weapon correctly and it is used correctly, they should be able to take out a significant number of targets and that will make a difference,” he said. But he also noted that the numbers clearly favor the Russians.

“In terms of artillery, they are more numerous, they have more weapons and more range” than the Ukrainian forces.

Aid is the largest tranche of weapons and equipment since the beginning of the war. Biden, who spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for about 40 minutes on Wednesday, also said the United States would send an additional $225 million in humanitarian aid to provide clean water, medical supplies , food, health care, shelter and cash for families. essential elements.

The United States remains committed, Biden said in a statement, “to support the people of Ukraine whose lives have been torn apart by this war.”

The aid comes as Austin convened a meeting in Brussels of more than 45 countries to discuss support for Ukraine. At the start of the meeting, he warned that the West must step up arms deliveries to Ukraine and prove its commitment to helping the country’s military fight along a 1,000 kilometer (620 mile) front line. ) in a bitter war of attrition with Russia.

He told participating nations: “We can’t afford to let go and we can’t run out of steam. The stakes are too high.”

Overall, since the war began in late February, the United States has committed about $5.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including this latest package. Officials said about a third of the last $1 billion would come from the presidential levy authority, meaning the Pentagon will take weapons and equipment from its own stockpile and ship them to Ukraine. The remaining two-thirds would be equipment and weapons purchased from industry by the United States and then transferred to Ukraine.

The Austin meeting, also attended by Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, took place on the opening day of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers at the alliance headquarters .

Increased arms supplies cannot come too soon for Ukrainian forces struggling to prevent Russia from taking control of their country’s industrial east after more than 3.5 months of war. In his nightly address to the nation, President Zelensky on Tuesday pleaded for more and faster deliveries of Western weapons, specifically calling for missile defense systems.

“Allies are determined to continue to provide the military equipment Ukraine needs to prevail, including heavy weapons and long-range systems,” said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Tuesday that without help from the West, “we cannot win this war.” She said Ukraine uses 5,000 to 6,000 artillery shells a day, while Russia uses 10 times more.

Defense ministers also planned to discuss measures to bolster forces along NATO’s eastern flank and elsewhere, which have strengthened since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This will mean more presence, more capabilities and greater readiness, with more combat formations deployed forward from NATO to reinforce our battlegroups in the East, more air, sea and cyber defences, pre-positioned equipment and stockpiles of weapons,” Stoltenberg said.

On a separate but related subject, he would not commit to a timetable for Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is blocking membership applications, accusing the Nordic countries of supporting Kurdish militants considered by Turkey to be terrorists.

“My goal is to resolve this issue as soon as possible, but as we are multiple nations involved in this process, there is no way of telling you exactly when we will resolve it,” Stoltenberg said.

Due to Turkey’s concerns, “it will take longer than initially planned,” he said.

Erdogan signaled on Wednesday that he would not back down.

“We will certainly not change our position until Sweden and Finland take clear, concrete and determined steps in the fight against terrorism,” Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers from his ruling party.

The 30 members of NATO must agree to admit new members.

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Corder reported from The Hague, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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