Defense & National Security — More military aid for Ukraine as winter approaches
The Pentagon will send Ukraine another $275 million in weapons and military equipment as part of a new package meant to help shore up Kyiv’s forces ahead of winter fighting.
We’ll share what’s in the latest package and what weapons Ukraine is still waiting on, plus what’s causing cracks to form in the mostly united U.S. response to Russia’s war, and details of the latest North Korean missile launches.
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.
US to send Ukraine $275M in weapons, equipment
The new $275 lethal aid package to Ukraine will include more ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) among other critical ammunition to bolster Ukraine in its fight against Russia, the Defense Department announced Friday.
Also included, according to deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh:
- 500 precision-guided 155 mm artillery rounds
- 2,000 155 mm rounds of remote anti-armor mine systems
- 1,300+ anti-armor systems
- 125 Humvees
- 2.75 million+ rounds of small arms ammunition
- Four satellite communications antennas
A replenishment: While there are no new weapons in the U.S. package, the additional aid is meant to restock critical weapons systems already in Ukrainian hands. Among those systems is HIMARS, which Kyiv’s forces have used to push Russian troops from chunks of Ukrainian land in its counteroffensive begun at the start of September.
“Some of the equipment and systems that are mentioned are having everyday impacts that we’re seeing on the battlefield and that’s why we are providing more,” Singh said.
Still waiting: Ukrainians are still waiting on other major weapons systems, including the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), which could be used to knock down targets in the sky including drones, ballistic missiles or fighter jets.
- The weapon is expected to be delivered early next month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Thursday.
- The U.S. has committed two of the air defense systems to Kyiv, which continues to press Western nations for more of the critical capability.
Finishing up: Singh said a Pentagon training program for Ukrainians to operate NASAMS “will conclude soon,” and once finished “the system will be ready for delivery to Ukraine.”
Cracks in US support for Ukraine risk helping Putin
Cracks are forming in what has largely been a united U.S. response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, with calls rising from the right and left for President Biden to push harder for peace talks.
The push from figures ranging from former President Trump on the right to progressive leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on the left has thrust questions about the Biden administration’s strategy toward Ukraine into the fore as Kyiv has seized momentum on the battlefield.
The argument: Supporters of current U.S. strategy say pressuring Ukraine into negotiations now would only help Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
“It helps the Russians and it hurts the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians want the Russians out of their country. And right now they’re on track to do that,” said William Taylor, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine now with the United States Institute of Peace.
Cracks showing: The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) stirred up a hornet’s nest on Capitol Hill this week with the release of a letter calling for Biden to increase pressure on Kyiv to open negotiations with Moscow, and for the U.S. to explore direct talks with Russia.
“The alternative to diplomacy is protracted war, with both its attendant certainties and catastrophic and unknowable risks,” the 30 lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was retracted a day later amid intense criticism from within the Democratic Party.
The issue: One reason many Democrats were upset with the letter — a point Jayapal acknowledged when she withdrew it — was that it muddied a message the party is trying to send ahead of the midterms about how Republicans are a threat to U.S. unity behind Ukraine.
Timing: The letter came a week after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) spurred concerns about GOP support for Ukraine with his warning that a Republican majority would not issue a “blank check” to Kyiv’s war efforts.
Former President Trump has repeatedly pushed for peace talks in Ukraine while stumping for candidates ahead of November’s midterm elections.
NK fires two ballistic missiles as South finishes drills
North Korea launched two ballistic missiles on Friday for the first time in two weeks, coinciding with the last day of South Korea’s annual “Hoguk” military drills.
The South Korean military detected the short-range missiles in the Tongchon region, on the east coast of North Korea nearing its southern neighbor.
The details: South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that the missiles flew at 140 miles at a maximum altitude of 15 miles, according to The Associated Press.
The military organization condemned the missile launches, which it called “a grave provocation” and accused of breaching UN Security Council resolutions.
Talks held: The southern country’s foreign ministry weighed in on the situation, reporting that it held talks with allies Japan and the U.S. following the launches aimed at strengthening a coalition against North Korea’s weapons tests.
The Pentagon’s response: The Defense Department late on Friday confirmed the North Korean launches, which officials said came from the central part of the country early in the day.
The missiles landed in the vicinity of Alsom Island – a rocky outcrop about 18 kilometers off North Korea’s coast. U.S. officials assessed that the launches “does not pose any immediate threat to U.S. personnel or our allies,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters.
She added that the United States will “continue working closely with our partners,” and that the actions of North Korea “further destabilize the region.”
ON TAP FOR MONDAY
- The Atlantic council will hold a conference on the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship at 8:30 a.m.
- Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, will speak at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on the Biden administration’s Iran policy at 10 a.m.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Musk officially closes Twitter deal: reports
- Eastman appeals court order to turn over emails to Jan. 6 committee
- Ukraine intelligence shows Moscow working to supplant Moldova pro-Western government
- Republicans sharpen knives for China with eye on House majority
- Zelensky says Russia virtually ‘dismantling the entire healthcare system’ in occupied territory
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