(CNN) – For the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States is providing Kiev with high-powered capabilities that some officials in the Biden administration considered risky expansion a few weeks ago.
The $ 800 million list is not only due to direct demands from Ukraine, but also to the production of a new kind of fighting on pro-Ukrainian playing territory in the open plains of southeastern Ukraine, next to Russia.
The new weapons package is a clear indication that war is changing in Ukraine, and that Ukraine will need the weapons it needs to continue to block the re-integrated and re-deployed Russian military after its initial defeats in the first weeks. Of war.
The new package will initially include 11 Mi-17 helicopters initially sent to Afghanistan, as well as 18 more 155mm howitzer artillery and 300 switch blade drones, as well as radar systems capable of monitoring incoming fire and detecting its appearance, Biden management said.
This package differs in part from previous defense assistance because this installment includes more sophisticated and heavier weapons than previous exports. A U.S. official tells CNN by design that Russia, which failed to capture Kyiv, has changed its strategy of concentrating troops in eastern Ukraine, arguing that the United States is changing its own strategy of giving to Ukraine.
“The profiles they need are very different,” the U.S. official said.
The newly approved package was announced just days after National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and General Mark Millie, head of the Coalition, spent more than two hours reviewing requests over the phone with their Ukrainian counterparts. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke twice last week with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksi Resnikov. Resnikov provided an update on the situation on the ground, allowing Austin to determine which weapons Ukraine needed most.
During a 58-minute phone call with Zhelensky from the Oval Office on Wednesday, Biden broke the news about the aid package. There was one item that Zhelensky heard directly from Biden: Mi-17 helicopters. According to a source familiar with the matter, helicopters were not initially included in the package from Tuesday night because US officials did not know at the time whether or not Ukrainians were needed. This Wednesday, Zhelensky made it clear to the president that they needed him.
The weapons provided, however, focused on the type of war that could take place in the open air, in the Donbass region, rather than the close war that took place in the urban and jungles surrounding Kyiv and other cities. The region is bordered by southwestern Russia, allowing Russian forces to avoid food, logistics and communications problems, which prevented their entire invasion of the country from the very beginning.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Wednesday that the package was “ideal for fighting in the Donbass,” which he described as “Kansas-like.”
“It’s a little flattering. It’s a little more open. And this is where we can expect the Russians to want to use tanks and long-range guns, artillery and rockets to achieve some of their objectives before the Russians can execute.” Ground forces, “Kirby said.
Kirby added that the new weapons package was “an attempt to give the Ukrainians every possible advantage in this coming battle.”
The Biden administration has faced bilateral pressure, especially in calls for more powerful weapons to help Ukraine. But the administration has been resisting for weeks, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin will respond with his already-deployed forces. The Kremlin warned that this could be seen as an extension or a sign that the United States was joining the war.
The problem is most noticeable on the MiG-29 fighter jets requested by Ukraine. Management refused to participate in the transfer of Soviet-era aircraft from a third country via the United States to Ukraine, rejecting Poland’s proposal.
The United States has said in a statement on March 9 that Kirby’s “change of warplanes at this time may have been misguided by Mr. Putin and the Russians.” There are many internal concerns about the proposal to fly them from NATO air base to Ukraine.
Now the rhetoric of the Biden administration seems to have changed with the intent of the war. The Pentagon has insisted that Ukraine be part of a “commitment from the outset” to help defend itself, as the United States prepares to send non-essential weapons since the beginning of the invasion.
“You can ask Mr. Putin and the Kremlin how the Russians explain it,” Kirby said Wednesday.
Ukraine is demanding more and more better weapons
For weeks, Zhelensky begged world leaders for more weapons and equipment. In March, he spoke to the parliaments of 17 countries and three international organizations. He never strayed from his main message: Ukraine needs more weapons.
He asked Congress for new air defense systems to protect the skies over Ukraine. He demanded 1% of NATO tanks and aircraft to fight Russian forces. He also asked Belgium for more weapons, warning that if Ukraine loses, the EU will lose.
But their demands for an increase in firepower have often gone unanswered. For the most part, nations have shipped small arms, anti-aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles, and more ammunition for defense and medical equipment.
Now, the tide is turning as Russian forces prepare for a major offensive in the Donbas region.
“The envelope for what people are willing to offer has grown significantly over the past two weeks,” the U.S. official said. When Ukrainian forces were able to control the Russian invasion in the early days, he put security assistance options “very quickly elsewhere”.
Slovakia supplies S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. The Czech Republic sent T-72 tanks. The UK has announced it will ship 120 armored vehicles to Ukraine. Now the United States has recognized a series of new and powerful weapons.
On the same day that the White House approved its own $ 800 million in a joint aid program for Ukraine, the European Union announced another $ 544 million in aid.
The Pentagon says it will act as soon as possible
The package, announced Wednesday, is the first time the United States has supplied howitzer guns to Ukraine. Kirby said many systems would require additional training before Ukrainians could use them, including howitzers and counter-artillery radars.
Many of the weapons aimed at Ukraine are so heavy that it is difficult to carry them across the country. Ukraine to date has stockpiled weapons supplied by the United States and other countries on its western border before being moved to forces across the country.
Kirby said the Pentagon knew “time was not our friend” as Russia prepared for its next attack, but was trying to get equipment quickly into Ukraine’s: “Before this was announced, we were moving very, very fast. In proportion.
On Wednesday the Pentagon discovered how to quickly arm the CEOs of eight major military contractors, according to a secret meeting reading. The roundtable, led by Undersecretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, focused on the Pentagon’s goals of continuing to supply arms to Ukraine and support the security of allies, while maintaining the readiness of US forces.
CNN’s Barbara Starr and Alex Marquardt contributed to the report.
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