The US is to send Ukraine US$400 million more in military aid, US officials said on Thursday amid concerns that financial assistance for the war against Russia could decline if Republicans take control of the US Congress.
The aid comes as vote counting from Tuesday’s election continues, with Republicans inching closer to a narrow US House of Representatives majority, and with control of the Senate hinging on tight races in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.
The aid package contains large amounts of ammunition and, for the first time, four highly mobile Avenger air defense systems, the Pentagon said.
Included is ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, which Ukraine has been successfully using in its counteroffensive against Russia.
Also in the package are Stinger missiles for the Avenger system, missiles for the Hawk surface-to-air anti-aircraft system, 10,000 mortar rounds, thousands of artillery rounds for howitzers, 400 grenade launchers, 100 Humvees, cold weather gear and 20 million rounds of ammunition for smaller, individual guns and rifles.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the new aid package includes important air defense contributions.
“This increased air defense will be critical for Ukraine as Russia continues to use cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack critical civilian infrastructure,” Sullivan said.
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said the addition of short-range Avenger systems would help Ukraine protect its troops against lethal drones, cruise missiles and helicopter attacks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his daily video address on Thursday that the new US air defense systems are “just what we needed, what we asked for.”
The additional ammunition and air defense capabilities come as Russian troops began pulling out of the key Ukrainian city of Kherson, in a widening retreat that could mark a turning point in the war. Kherson is the only provincial capital that Moscow captured, and the Russian withdrawal could allow Ukraine to win back territory in the south.
Ukrainian officials said that Moscow’s forces had no choice but to flee Kherson, but remained cautious, fearing an ambush.
Zelenskiy has pressed the US and other allies for advanced air defense systems. Such systems have become increasingly important to defend against aerial attacks on critical electricity and water infrastructure, particularly as winter approaches.
Ukrainian officials have said that 40 percent of the country’s energy infrastructure has been damaged in Russian attacks.
With the latest aid, the US has committed more than US$18.6 billion in weapons and other equipment to Ukraine since the war began.
Some Republicans have called for cutting back assistance to Ukraine, and others who support backing Ukraine have called for greater scrutiny on the assistance.
Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy — who could become speaker after the votes are counted — said last month that his party would not write a “blank check” for Ukraine if they gain the majority.
When asked about ongoing aid to Ukraine, Singh said it has had bipartisan support.
Both parties in Congress have “a commitment to Ukraine that we’re in this for the long haul,” she said.
Meanwhile, the South Korean military said the country has maintained its position of not sending lethal arms to Ukraine, after the Wall Street Journal reported Seoul struck a secret deal with the US that would supply Kyiv with artillery.
The South Korean Ministry of Defense yesterday said that negotiations are underway between a South Korean company and the US to export arms to help Washington stock up on its inventory of 155mm artillery rounds, under the premise the US would use the shells.
The arrangement would allow Seoul “to stick to the letter of its public commitment not to send lethal military support to Ukraine,” while allowing the US to not dig deeper into its dwindling stock of artillery to help supply Ukraine.
While Seoul has provided 4.7 billion won (US$3.56 million) worth of non-lethal aid that includes bulletproof vests, blankets, helmets and medicine, it has not accepted multiple requests from Ukraine to supply weapons. Zelenskiy even made a personal appeal for the military aid when he spoke to the South Korean parliament in April.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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