Biden Administration Moves Ukraine to Top of List for U.S. Weapons Sales, Making Allies Wait

U.S. President Joe Biden (R) welcomes President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the White
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Biden administration has decided to move Ukraine to the top of the list on countries receiving air defense weapons, and effectively making American allies wait at least 16 months for those same weapons.

The administration said it was because in recent months Russia has stepped up its missile and drone attacks in Ukraine in an attempt to destroy its energy system ahead of the winter.

“This is not a new tactic for them, but they have certainly applied a lot more energy and effort into it in recent months,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters Thursday. He added:

As we’ve heard from President Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian military is in desperate need of additional air defense capabilities. We take our partnership seriously, especially when a partner like Ukraine is in such jeopardy. Right now, we know that Ukraine urgently needs these additional capabilities,
We have continued to dig deep and provide Ukraine with a variety of air defense systems and interceptor missiles from our own stockpiles, including those of the Patriot system, NASAMs, and of course, the Hawks.

Many of our allies and partners have stepped up in historic ways as well. But obviously, more is needed, and it’s needed now. So as a result, the United States government has made the difficult but necessary decision to reprioritize, near term, planned deliveries of foreign military sales to other countries of particularly Patriot and NASAM missiles to go to Ukraine instead.

The move is the latest move by President Joe Biden in escalating the U.S.’s involvement in Ukraine’s war with Russia. He recently approved allowing Ukraine to use U.S. weapons to strike inside Russia, if Russian forces were readying to attack across the border into Ukraine.

At first the administration claimed the policy was only to hit Russian forces who were readying to attack Kharkiv, but now the Biden administration claims its new policy would allow Ukraine to strike Russian forces anywhere inside Ukraine where they are preparing to launch attacks into Ukraine.

It is unclear if the move would be able to be reversed should former President Donald Trump win re-election in November.

Sen. JD Vance (R-OH), a staunch critic of continuing to send billions of U.S. taxpayer money into Ukraine to fuel the war, slammed the decision, saying, “At this point we are actively endangering our national security by focusing on Ukraine to the exclusion of other priorities. A slow running disaster from the Biden admin.”

He wrote on X in January:

…the longer the war goes on, the more Ukraine turns into a rump state. They are now recruiting old men to send to the front lines. The average age of a soldier in Ukraine was 43 a few months ago, and is likely a bit older now. They have lost 25 percent of their population, primarily to refugees leaving the country. They are unable to provide basic services for their citizens without the support of their allies. Rebuilding Ukraine will cost hundreds of billions of dollars if the war ended yesterday. The best thing for Ukraine, and certainly for the United States, is to negotiated a peace. 4) Yes, I do know what I’m talking about. Which is why I recognize that the arguments of the pro-Ukraine caucus grow more detached from reality by the day.

Kirby argued on Thursday it was a “key” moment in the Ukraine War — something the administration has argued every time it has tried to convince Congress to approve more aid for Ukraine.

“This will ensure that we’ll be able to provide Ukraine with the missiles they need to maintain their stockpiles at a key moment in the war and as we get, again, towards the end of summer and into the fall,” he said.

“As a result, deliveries of these missiles to other countries that are currently in the queue will have to be delayed. To be clear, those countries will still receive the missiles that they have ordered. It’s just that the delivery timelines will now take a little longer,” Kirby said.

The Biden administration has refused to say what countries and allies will now have to wait longer for the same kinds of weapons, which include air defense missiles.

Kirby said the Biden administration has informed all affected countries and is making “every effort to minimize any negative impact to the countries with affected foreign military sales cases.”

The administration claimed that Taiwan — who is facing a potential invasion by the People’s Republic of China — will not be affected, or Israel. Kirby said:

This decision demonstrates our commitment to supporting our partners when they’re in existential danger. The United States firmly believes that this is the best course of action right now to support Ukraine, while still ensuring other partners receive the air defense missiles and capabilities that they’ve committed to purchase, again, on a delayed timeline.

Kirby said the reprioritization of recipients would enable Ukraine to receive air defense missiles “over coming weeks.”

“Certainly before the end of the summer, Ukraine will start to see the initial deliveries of these,” Kirby said.

Kirby claimed the deliveries would provide Ukraine with enough capabilities over the rest of fiscal year 2024 and into fiscal year 2025.

“So about 16 months will be the focus of the timeframe to fill out Ukraine’s inventory. And then, after that, the countries that have been asked to delay will start to get their deliveries,” Kirby said.

Kirby said the move would provide Ukraine with “hundreds” of Patriot and NASAM interceptor missiles.

He said the affected countries were “broadly understanding of it.”

When asked about countries bordering Russia, such as Poland, Kirby declined to answer.

“We’ll let the countries affected speak for themselves on this. As I said, the response we got was broadly supportive. And many of the countries that we talked to were, in fact, very supportive of this because they know how serious the need is in Ukraine,” he said.

Kirby said he would also look at air defense systems — not just missiles — being “redirected.”

“Even before this decision, we had been working closely with other countries, in Europe and beyond Europe, that have systems — launchers, radar systems, and support systems — about their willingness to contribute those systems to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities. And so, that effort is ongoing; I would even describe it as a parallel effort. And we’re going to continue to do that going forward,” he said.

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