Ukraine Gets More U.S. Weapons As the Russian Attack Advances

Big StoryCongress Ukraine
Ukraine Gets More U.S. Weapons As the Russian Attack Advances

On Wednesday, the United States approved a $1 billion tranche of arms to Kyiv almost as soon as President Joe Biden signed a $95 billion foreign aid package that had been stalled for months in Congress. That legislation included about $60 billion for Ukraine, providing a much-needed infusion of assistance as Ukrainian forces struggle to hold off Russia. 

“In the next few hours – literally, the [next] few hours – we’re going to begin sending in equipment to Ukraine for air defense; munitions for artillery, for rocket systems; and armored vehicles,” Biden said Wednesday as he signed the legislation.

“You know,” he added, “this package is literally an investment, not only in Ukraine’s security but in Europe’s security, in our own security.” 

American officials also revealed this week that Washington quietly approved the transfer of long-range missiles to Ukraine. Ukraine had been pushing for Army Tactical Mission Systems, known as ATACMS, for quite some time, as they give Ukraine the ability to strike targets deep within Russian-controlled territory. The U.S. had been reluctant to give Kyiv these systems because it feared depleting its own stocks, and it worried about the possibility of escalation.

Last year, the U.S. shipped a modified version of the ATACMS, but it is now sending over ones that can reach a range of almost 200 miles. According to Politico, Ukraine has already deployed the long-range ATACMS twice, including one to strike a Russian military base in Crimea. 

The transfer of these long-asked for ATACMS, and the final Congressional approval of $60 billion for Ukraine, underscores the sense of urgency that the United States and many of its allies feel around Russia’s war right now. 

Russia claims it has taken about 400 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory so far this year. That figure is likely inflated, but Russian troops have advanced. The Institute for the Study of War estimates that Russia has retaken about 305 square kilometers (about 118 square miles) between January 1st and April 1st.

Some of this success is directly linked to the U.S. turning off the arms spigot; Ukraine has had to conserve ammunition and other equipment, which makes the frontlines fragile and harder to defend. Russia has put Ukraine’s cities and energy infrastructure under relentless barrage, depleting Ukraine’s supply of air defense missiles. 

“We will make every effort to compensate for the half-year spent in debates and doubts,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of renewed American support.

This latest aid package, and the quick transfer of weapons, will give Ukraine a jolt, in both arms and morale, but it is unlikely to solve all of Ukraine’s problems immediately. There may be some logistical challenges in getting all munitions and equipment to where they need to be, though Kyiv can worry less about rationing now with more ammo on the way. Russia may also ramp up attacks as it tries to consolidate gains ahead of the arrival of new munitions and anti-missile systems.

Ukraine also has manpower problems that new armaments can’t easily fix. Ukraine is trying to mobilize new fighters, but it is struggling with both recruitment and troop rotations. 

Overall, this U.S. assistance is more of a reset than a guarantee of Ukrainian victory. It gives Ukraine a chance to slow and stop its losses, essentially fighting this phase of the conflict back to a stalemate. It may provide Ukraine with a chance to reconstitute and rebuild, allowing it to go back on the offensive and regain territory in the future. But that will probably be a 2025 thing.

First Ukraine needs to survive the rest of the year.

The delay in U.S. aid reshaped the battlefield, and now Ukraine has to hold the line and undo all of Russia’s advances. That Ukraine’s commanders must make decisions based on Congressional dysfunction feels deeply unfair, yet it has been a reality of the war since Russia’s full-scale assault. Ukraine can’t win without Western help.

That reality is only getting more grim. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters he thinks this latest package is enough to supply Ukraine with what it needs through 2024, but U.S. officials have indicated they don’t think it is enough for Ukraine to win outright.  If Republicans, and Donald Trump in particular, return to power after the 2024 elections, Ukrainian aid may not make the agenda again. European elections next month might see more right-wing parties skeptical of Ukraine aid making gains too. 

The renewal of U.S. assistance this week does offer a sliver of optimism for Ukraine. But it’s temporary, and tempered, given the battlefield and political realities. That should force a reckoning in Washington, in Brussels, and in Kyiv, for what a future might look if the next billion-dollar weapons package never comes. 

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin