As he arms Ukraine, Biden prepares new weapons pipelines for Eastern Europe

“There is now a bigger issue that will be important for the next three to five years, which is the defense of NATO and NATO countries against a Russia that does not back down,” said Seth Jones, director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It is the administration that recognizes that this is a bigger problem than just Ukraine, and that there are huge challenges right now in other NATO countries, their ability to defend,” he added.

This decision marks a major change in policy more than six months after the start of the war in Ukraine. The extraction of ammunition and equipment from US stockpiles in Europe and at home has accounted for the vast majority of US assistance to Ukraine so far, and has seen nearly a million shells fired. artillery and dozens of howitzers and guided rocket launchers heading for the front lines.

Allies across Europe have also dipped into their own stockpiles as part of the massive international emergency aid operation, and US funding of $1 billion to resupply and modernize their armies will be essential to show American commitment to the alliance. This will allay some fears, particularly in NATO’s Baltic countries, that they have become more vulnerable after giving up so much armament.

The administration did not provide details on the specific capabilities the money will go to, but officials are likely to seek to bolster air defenses in NATO’s eastern region. Poland is already asking additional Patriot missile defense batteries of the United States, and a potential new member of NATO Finland is also looking to strengthen its defense capabilities.

The money will also likely go towards capabilities that have proven effective in Ukraine’s current fight, such as drones and missiles, as well as replacing Soviet-era weapons that European nations have sent to Ukraine. Ukraine, said Jim Townsend, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

“There is a growing concern across interagency, state and defense that more needs to be done to help allies who are on the front lines who have these needs and don’t have the budget to be able to do everything. buy,” Townsend said. said.

The $1 billion in funding will allow countries to use US grants to purchase military hardware from US defense companies, with support and guidance from Washington. The move recognizes a growing need in many Eastern European countries that are either keen to get rid of their old Russian equipment or have handed over most of it to Ukraine since February.

For Ukraine, the latest aid coupled with Blinken’s visit comes at another critical moment in the war. Ukrainian forces are conducting offensives in Kharkiv to the northeast and Kherson to the south, stretching Russian forces hundreds of miles and forcing Russian commanders to dispatch what are thought to be a reduced number of troops and equipment .

Ukraine has reclaimed more than 700 square kilometers of territory, said a Ukrainian general on Thursday, in the first official assessment of the offensive. Brig. General Olekskiy Gromov told reporters that Kyiv forces had advanced up to 50 kilometers behind Russian lines, recapturing more than 20 villages in Kharkiv.

While Ukrainian leaders have been talking for weeks about the push to Kherson, the push to Kharkiv is a surprise, and Ukrainian leaders claim they broke thin Russian lines towards the critical rail hub of Kupyansk. Taking the city and the railroad there would help tighten supply lines for Russian forces in the south and east, where Ukraine has already isolated several pockets of Russian troops.

Leaders in Kyiv likely timed the two parallel advances to force the Kremlin to choose which pocket to defend and to show Western leaders that their support was not wasted, as some politicians in Europe and the United States began to suggest that military aid cannot last forever.

On Capitol Hill, there are concerns about shifting priorities in Congress after the midterm elections, particularly if Republicans win a majority in the House. Many candidates question the multi-billion dollar aid packages for Ukraine.

“At some point, especially if House Republicans win the election, I don’t know how we’ll do that in December or January, it’s going to be really, really tough,” to push through more aid packages , admitted a Republican staffer. . The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive political issues.

The strength of the US defense industrial base is raising concerns as contractors rush to replenish US stockpiles of munitions sent to Ukraine. Not all production lines for items such as anti-armour weapons that have been sent to Ukraine in their thousands are able to replace short-term losses, and worker shortages have also become a concern. Austin on Thursday announced a meeting of international armaments directors in the coming weeks to discuss industrial base issues and strategies.

“If there was a war in the Taiwan Strait right now, [there are] very serious concerns that the United States would have enough ammunition for any kind of protracted conflict,” Jones said. “The industrial base is currently under severe strain.”

Austin spoke about the longer-term vision to Ramstein on Thursday, saying the new aid “will help integrate Ukraine’s capabilities and strengthen its long-term joint operations.” We will work together to modernize our defense industrial bases to meet Ukraine’s long-term needs. And we will work together for production and innovation to meet Ukraine’s long-term self-defense needs.

Thursday’s conference was the group’s fifth meeting and the second to take place in Ramstein. It also follows the Madrid meeting of NATO heads of state in June, where Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledged a “comprehensive assistance package” for Ukraine including weapons, fuel and supplies. . In the longer term, Stoltenberg said, “we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era equipment to modern NATO equipment, build interoperability, and further strengthen its defense institutions and of security”.

The Biden administration still has $5.6 billion to contribute to replenish those stockpiles of artillery ammunition and anti-armour weapons, which have been sent en masse to Ukraine since February, according to figures provided by the Pentagon.

Thursday’s transfer will remove more material from those stockpiles, including artillery and armored vehicles, bringing total U.S. drawdowns to $8.6 billion and leaving about $2.9 billion of the total amount that Congress authorized to send to Ukraine in May. The Pentagon will have to use the funds by the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30 or else require a congressional waiver to extend the authority.

The White House is working with Congress to extend authority beyond the filing deadline, an administration official told POLITICO on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes talks, and expressed confidence that permission will be granted. “We look forward to continuing to serve Ukraine’s battlefield needs in the months ahead,” the person said.


Politico

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