Biden promises another $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine
By Steven Erlanger, Michael D. Shear, Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger
President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the United States will deliver another $1 billion worth of military equipment to Ukraine, including weapons to defend the country’s coast, additional artillery, and more ammunition for the rocket systems to defend against Russian aggression in the eastern part of the country.
Biden said in a statement that he informed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of the new weapons during a 40-minute call Wednesday morning.
“The bravery, resilience, and determination of the Ukrainian people continues to inspire the world,” Biden said in the statement. “And the United States, together with our allies and partners, will not waver in our commitment to the Ukrainian people as they fight for their freedom.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, at a meeting in Brussels with other Western officials from NATO countries, said that the U.S. aid would include sophisticated weaponry like guided rocket launcher systems and 18 more long-range M777 howitzers. Ukrainian officials have emphasized that they need far-reaching weapons to counter some of Russia’s advantages in battle in the eastern Donbas region.
“These are key investments in Ukraine’s long-range fire capabilities,” Austin said in Brussels, saying the weapons would be “crucial to Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia’s assault in the Donbas.”
Austin said that other countries would also make new commitments. He said Germany would offer three long-range artillery rocket systems with ammunition, as Britain has also done. Slovakia is promising helicopters and ammunition, and Canada, Poland and the Netherlands promised more artillery.
The White House also announced that Biden approved an additional $225 million to provide Ukrainians with drinking water, medical supplies, food, shelter and other humanitarian assistance.
“We can’t afford to let up, and we can’t lose steam,” Austin told a meeting in Brussels of nearly 50 countries known as the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. He praised the flow of tanks, missiles and artillery provided to Ukraine so far, but said it was not enough, adding, “The stakes are too high.”
Ukraine is struggling to hold off a Russian onslaught in the east, with Moscow’s forces on the verge of capturing the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk. Kyiv has voiced frustration that many of the heavy weapons promised by its Western allies have not arrived, as Russia uses its superior artillery to seize control of more of the eastern Donbas region.
The comments came as administration officials say they are increasingly looking at options for how to handle a sustained conflict — and whether a cease-fire, or a formal armistice similar to the one reached in Korea 70 years ago, would help or hurt the Ukrainian cause.
Their analysis, officials say, has been fairly pessimistic. They fear that President Vladimir Putin of Russia might use a cessation of hostilities to rebuild his military, and perhaps seek another opportunity to take all of Ukraine, his objective when the war began on Feb. 24.
For now, officials say, they are preparing for long-term support of the Ukrainian government, and more supply of weapons. But officials are clearly concerned that both U.S. public interest in the conflict and European unity may wane. They are looking for ways to reinvigorate that interest, including inviting Zelenskyy to attend the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June.
“Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions,” added Austin, a retired four-star Army general. “So we must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine self-defense, and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself.”