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Pentagon commits another $300 million to Ukraine for security assistance

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby talks to reporters during a news briefing on Thursday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The Pentagon will provide up to $300 million in military supplies to Ukraine, including drones, armored vehicles and machine guns, as part of a broader effort to boost Ukrainian forces fighting Russia’s invasion.

The aid will be sent under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a program that lets the United States procure arms directly from manufacturers instead of delivering weapons from its own stockpiles to Ukraine, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday.

The latest package shows that the assistance for Ukraine is evolving after weeks of fighting, as the United States and its partners learn more about Moscow’s assault tactics and Kyiv’s capabilities. The Pentagon said it has committed more than $1.6 billion in security assistance since Russia’s invasion.

“This decision underscores the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in support of its heroic efforts to repel Russia’s war of choice,” Kirby said in a statement.

The new aid will include Puma unmanned aerial systems — hand-launched lightweight drones with a range of about a dozen miles that can fly for about two hours — providing Ukrainian infantry with extended reconnaissance capabilities. The Pentagon also intends to send Ukraine “nonstandard” machine guns, meaning the weapons aren’t regularly used by the U.S. military.

The United States will send armored Humvees, night-vision devices, thermal imagery systems, tactical secure communications systems, commercial satellite imagery services, medical supplies and Switchblade drones — small unmanned aircraft packed with explosives that crash into targets such as tanks in “kamikaze” fashion.

Inside the transfer of foreign military equipment to Ukrainian soldiers

The announcement comes a day after British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told reporters that Britain and its partners agreed to send Ukraine more lethal aid after a conference involving 35 countries. Wallace said the Ukrainians needed weapons such as long-range artillery to counter Russian sieges of Ukrainian cities, according to British media.

“As the tactics on the ground change, we need to change what we supply,” he told reporters.

This week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced that Canberra would send Kyiv armored vehicles, a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Australian lawmakers that mine-resistant Australian Bushmasters in Ukraine “would do much more for our common freedom, our common security than staying parked on your land.”

After more than two weeks of war, Russia has failed to establish military dominance over Ukraine. Here's why. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post, Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

“The package from the [United States] makes a lot of sense,” said Mick Ryan, a retired major general in the Australian army. Ukrainian troops need little training to use the included equipment, while they will also need to replace the drones, ammunition and fuel they use in battle, he said. The Puma drones will be useful in preparing artillery and rocket strikes, Ryan said.

The United States has rebuffed Zelensky’s other requests, such as setting up a no-fly zone, and Poland’s offer to send fighter jets to Ukraine amid fears of further escalation involving a NATO country. President Biden last month signed a mammoth government spending bill that has $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine — including investments meant to help protect against cyberattacks and bolster regional allies against any further Kremlin-led aggression.

Since the beginning of the Biden administration, the United States has dispatched more than $2.3 billion in defense support to Ukraine, the Pentagon said.

As the prospect of a Russian invasion loomed, the U.S. military started accelerating weapons shipments to Ukraine as early as December. The supplies included weapons useful for fighting in urban areas such as shotguns, and protective suits for soldiers handling unexploded ordnance.

Since Feb. 24, when Russia invaded, the United States has been sending more Javelin antitank missiles and Stinger antiaircraft missile systems.

President Biden has said he will not send U.S. troops into Ukraine. But he has ordered more Americans to Eastern Europe to deter Russia from further aggression. About 80,000 U.S. troops are now in Europe.

“As the world responds to Russia’s aggression, we’re seeing again how much American leadership matters,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday. “Russia’s invasion isn’t just a mortal threat to Ukraine. It’s a challenge to the rules-based international system."