US can send fresh weapons to Ukraine ‘within days’

Updated
Speaker Mike Johnson talks to reporters after the House voted to approve the aid to Ukraine
Speaker Mike Johnson talks to reporters after the House voted to approve the aid to Ukraine - J. Scott Applewhite/AP

US weapons could be sent to Ukraine within days, after the House of Representatives voted to approve more than $60 billion (?48.5 billion) in military aid.

Kyiv’s army has resorted to increasingly desperate measures amid dwindling supplies of key missiles and relentless Russian bombardment that has translated into frontline advances.

Some troops have had to rely on civil society donations of items like drones or have started using decoy air defence systems to draw away enemy fire.

The Pentagon has already moved stockpiles of the most-needed arms closer to Ukraine’s borders in anticipation of the bill passing so that they could be sent to Kyiv at short notice.

Joe Biden’s “supplemental” bill on foreign aid funding has been held up for months in Congress amid opposition from Republicans.

Joe Biden's
Joe Biden's "supplemental" bill on foreign aid funding has been held up for months - Alex Brandon/AP

On Saturday night the House voted to approve the package, sending it on to the Senate, where it is expected to pass early this week.

Chuck Schumer, the Democrat majority leader in the Senate, has suggested it could be approved as early as Tuesday. Mr Biden has said he will sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.

The aid package replenishes a Pentagon budget that can be accessed by Mr Biden through the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), a power used for foreign aid purchases.

It allows the White House to send existing US military stockpiles to another country. More than $40 billion worth of equipment has been sent to Ukraine using this method since the start of the war in February 2022.

Maj Gen Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said this week that the US had already moved weapons closer to Ukraine in the hope the bill would pass, allowing them to be moved more quickly.

“We have a very robust logistics network that enables us to move material very quickly,” he said. “We can move within days.”

The main aid requests from Ukraine to other allies in recent months have been for air defence missiles to protect the country’s cities from Russian attacks, and shells to use on the front lines in the East.

Ukraine's front line has been feeling the strain
Ukraine's front line has been feeling the strain - ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP

The next package is likely to include ATACMS missiles, which have already been sent in limited quantities to the front line, and Patriot missiles for Ukraine’s air defence systems.

The most recent round of aid, which was drawn from savings in the existing Pentagon budget, included munitions for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

The US stores some 155 million howitzer rounds in Europe, and could send them to Ukraine within days.

The global supply of rounds began to fall in recent months after the US budget for Ukraine aid dwindled and European manufacturers were unable to keep up with demand.

William Burns, the director of the CIA, has said that without speedy assistance from the US, Ukraine could lose the war against Russia this year.

Despite initial plans for a spring offensive this year, Ukraine has resorted to defending its existing front lines against Russian troops, without the weapons or personnel to launch a new push into Crimea.

The military draft in Ukraine was this week lowered to include men aged over 25, from its previous level of 27.

As the war in Ukraine has progressed, the US has agreed to send increasingly expensive military systems to Kyiv, including the Abrams tank.

An Abrams tank in Ukraine
An Abrams tank, which have been provided by the US, in Ukraine - X

Russia has also stepped up its defence procurement since February 2022, and has received drones from Iran and missile technology from China, according to US officials.

The Pentagon hopes that the package approved in the House on Saturday will be enough to meet America’s defence commitments to Ukraine until the presidential election, which will be held in November.

Republican efforts to stall the aid ramped up in recent months amid pressure from Donald Trump, the GOP’s nominee, who has opposed further spending and promised to end the war “in one day” if he wins the election.

Despite Mr Zelensky’s requests for advanced fighter jets from the US, planes are unlikely to be approved from the US.

Last year, Mr Biden approved some F-16 fighter jets to be sent to Ukraine from Denmark, under a rule that allows the US government to determine which countries can use planes that American manufacturers have produced.

The Pentagon has also agreed to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the planes, including at the Morris Air Force Base in Arizona.

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