Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Another $775M in weapons for Ukraine

Madeline Monroe/Anna Rose Layden/Associated Press-Efrem Lukatsky
News accounts say President Biden is being lauded globally for bold leadership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The United States will send another $775 million in missiles, drones, vehicles and mine clearing equipment to Ukraine to help in its war with Russia as the conflict enters a near standstill. 

We’ll share what’s in the latest package plus a dispatch from Odesa as the war in Ukraine rages on, as well as the latest thoughts on China from a lawmaker that took part in the Congressional delegation that traveled to Taiwan. 

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Pentagon announces extra $775M for Ukraine

The Pentagon announced Friday that the United States will send another $775 million in missiles, drones, vehicles and mine clearing equipment to Ukraine to help it beat back the Russian attack. 

The new assistance package will include 16 howitzers and ammunition, AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM), ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 15 Scan Eagle reconnaissance drones, and armored vehicles, among other armaments, a senior Defense official told reporters.  

A critical moment: The package comes at a critical time as Ukraine and Russia battle for control of the eastern part of Ukraine.   

Nearly six months into the war, the two sides are locked in a near operational standstill, with neither Kyiv nor Moscow able to drum up enough ground troops and weapons to turn the course of the conflict, Western officials assess.   

A needed boost: The extra shot of lethal aid could help Ukrainian forces gain the upper hand as Russian troops struggle with losses inflicted by U.S.-made missile systems.  

  • “I would say that you are seeing a complete and total lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield,” the senior Defense official said, adding that it’s important to both sustain Ukrainian battlefield successes and enable them to be make gains as the conflict shifts.    
  • “We want to make sure that Ukraine has a steady stream of ammunition to meet its needs, and that’s what we’re doing with this package.” 

Earlier: The latest lethal aid follows the $1 billion in weapons and equipment given to the embattled country earlier this month, the largest such tranche pledged since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.  

The package also pushes the United States past the $10 billion mark for military assistance for Ukraine under the Biden administration, spread out over 19 packages since August 2021. 

Also included: The package will consist of 1,000 Javelins; 36,000 105 mm artillery rounds; mine clearing equipment; 40 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, to allow Ukrainian troops to travel through areas rigged with mines; 1,500 tube-launched optically tracked wire-guided missiles; 2,000 anti-armor rounds; and 50 Humvees, among other equipment.  

Read the full story here 

Dispatch from Ukraine: Calm is an illusion in Odesa

The signs of war are everywhere in Odesa, but it feels like there’s little fear of death or destruction from Russian attacks.  

Air raid sirens ring out almost daily but rocket and missile strikes largely appear to fall far from the city center — a far different reality from neighboring cities such as Mykoliav to the northeast, which suffers daily, devastating bombardments. 

A little bit farther east is Kherson, one of the first cities to fall under Russian occupation over its strategic position of providing a military land- and sea-supply route from the Crimean peninsula, which has been Russian occupied since 2014. 

The scene: Ukrainian forces are trying to claw back this territory since it was first seized by Russia in the earliest days of its February invasion, while resistance fighters inside Kherson have carried out high-profile attacks with car bombs targeting collaborators or Russian forces.    

Odesa’s relative feeling of peace is a credit to the Ukrainian forces holding the front line outside these cities and Voznesens’k, north of Mykolaiv, said Odesa’s mayor, Gennadiy Trukhanov.  

At the ready: Calm is more likely an illusion, Trukhanov said in an interview with The Hill from his office in the city center, where security officials are refilling and replacing old sandbags that reinforce the perimeter of the building.  

The windows of nearby museums of this town center, home to some of the most beautiful buildings of the city, remain boarded up to protect against explosions. 

Read the full story here 

Meeks: Can’t ‘allow Beijing’ to tell us what to do 

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) on Friday said in an interview that he and the delegation that traveled to Taiwan with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are “not going to allow Beijing” and Chinese President Xi Jinping to dictate the actions taken by Congress. 

“We’re not going to allow Beijing and Xi to tell members of Congress what to do, who could visit, when [they can] and cannot visit,” Meeks said to The Washington Post

He added: “You just can’t kowtow and bow down, changing what we do because of Beijing’s decision to be more aggressive.” 

An earlier visit: Meeks was part of the group that accompanied Pelosi on her trip across the Indo-Pacific region, including to Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing claims sovereignty over. 

Pelosi’s trip created friction between China and the U.S. when she and her fellow members of Congress proceeded with their visit to Taiwan despite warnings from the Chinese government that it would have “severe negative impact” on the relationship between the two powers. 

Meeks’ thoughts: “It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote following the trip

When asked about his thoughts on China’s response to the Taiwan visit, Meeks told the Post: “It just shows their aggressive nature in trying to change the status of Taiwan.” 

Read that story here 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a talk on “The Military Dimensions of the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis,” at 9:30 a.m. 
  • The Hudson Institute will discuss “Asia’s New Leaders and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” at 12 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you Monday!

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