Pentagon announces $6B for long-term Ukraine weapons contracts

The United States announced a $6 billion weapons package for Ukraine on Friday, its largest military aid package to date for Kyiv’s forces.

The weapons and equipment will include critical interceptors for Ukraine’s Patriot and NASAM air defense systems, significant amounts of artillery ammunition, air-to-ground munitions, counterdrone weapons, and maintenance and sustainment support, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters.

The aid tranche, which will pull from the $61 billion in Ukraine funding signed into law by President Biden on Wednesday, will be contracted through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. This means the U.S. will buy new equipment made by American defense firms for the Ukrainian military rather than pull from its own stocks, a process that could take months or years for the weapons to reach the embattled country.

“This is the largest security assistance package that we’ve committed to date,” Austin said after meeting virtually with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 countries meant to provide Kyiv’s military with critical weapons, systems and equipment.

Friday’s meeting marked the second anniversary of the group, which has provided Ukraine with more than $95 billion worth of ammunition, rocket systems, tanks and fighter jets to help Ukraine defend against an encroaching Russian army.

The $6 billion deal announced Friday adds to a $1 billion lethal assistance package the Pentagon revealed Wednesday — shortly after Biden signed the national security supplemental into law — meant to quickly surge equipment to Ukraine.

That aid, which will be quickly pulled from U.S. stocks, will deliver critical artillery rounds and air defense munitions to Kyiv as its forces struggle with dwindling resources to rebuff Russia’s invasion.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is hoping for even bigger systems. Earlier Friday, he urged the U.S. for at least seven more Patriot batteries to create a shield around Ukrainian cities to ward off further Russian missile attacks.

“We urgently need Patriot systems and missiles for them,” Zelensky said at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting. “This is what can and should save lives right now.”

Washington has already sent one Patriot battery to Ukraine in a previous package, but Zelensky said more would “really change the situation” on the battlefield.

Austin said that during the meeting, the U.S. “pushed especially hard today to rush in more air defense systems and interceptors” into Ukraine. He also said that in the last several days, he has spoken one-on-one with several of his European counterparts about how to provide Ukraine with additional Patriot systems.

But he cautioned against making the Patriot “the silver bullet” for helping Ukraine defeat Russia.

“It’s going to be a combination of a number of systems. It’s going to be dependent upon whether or not Ukraine can effectively employ these systems and sustain those systems, and whether or not Ukraine can mobilize an adequate number of troops to replenish its ranks,” Austin said. “We continue to work on all those things simultaneously.”

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