U.S. Announces $275 Million Weapons Package To Ukraine Amid Calls To Loosen Limits

The Pentagon announced a $275 million package of weaponry for Ukraine on Friday as calls for loosening restrictions on the use of the weapons have increased in recent days.

The military aid package, the fifth since President Joe Biden signed a foreign aid bill in April and the 58th since 2021, will include artillery supplies, ammunition for the HIMARS rocket launching system, anti-tank weapons and other materiel, the Pentagon said.

In its announcement, the Pentagon called the bundle “a significant new security assistance package to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs.”

The weaponry comes as Ukraine faces the aftereffects of aid being delayed for six months as Republicans attempted to leverage it in return for concessions on border security by the White House and Democrats.

Russia has slowly continued to push forward in the eastern part of the country and has started an offensive to put the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, within reach of artillery. After some initial Russian gains, Ukraine says it has stabilized the defense of the city.

But Russia’s staging of the attack from its side of the border, only 12 miles away from Kharkiv, has highlighted what an increasing number of U.S. lawmakers say is an unneeded restraint on Ukraine: the U.S. demand that it not use American weapons beyond the country’s borders.

The restriction has been seen as one way to avoid military escalation between the U.S. and Russia, and Ukraine has abided by it. But critics say the move toward Kharkiv shows how Russia is leveraging that restraint to its advantage.

Ukraine has been limited to its own missiles and drones to defend its territory from artillery and missile attacks from across the border, and it has seen Russia use the border to amass and stage troops to move into Ukraine.

“Will you change this policy so Ukraine can fight without one hand tied behind his back?” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a hearing Wednesday.

“When it comes to enabling, endorsing attacks outside of Ukraine, that’s not something we’ve done, but Ukraine will have to make and will make its own decisions,” Blinken said.

“They cannot achieve victory with these restrictions that you, not the Congress, have placed on them,” McCaul fired back.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) appeared to lend his voice to that chorus as well Wednesday, telling reporters, “They need to be able to fight back. And I think us trying to micromanage the effort there, it’s not a good policy for us.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the Democratic leader in the House, sounded a softer but similar note Thursday.

Jeffries said the U.S. needs to be as “aggressively supportive as possible” of Ukraine, but the specific question of cross-border strikes was “something to be worked out, at the moment, between the Ukrainian government and the Biden administration.”

Johnson’s and Jeffries’ comments came only days after Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, signed a letter along with 12 other House members asking for the restriction to be lifted.