WASHINGTON – The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it is sending up to $500 million in military aid to Ukraine, including more than 50 heavily armored vehicles and an infusion of missiles for air defense systems, as Ukrainian and Western leaders try to sort out the impact of the brief weekend insurrection in Russia.
The aid is aimed at bolstering Ukraine's counteroffensive, which has been moving slowly in its early stages.
It's the 41st time since the Russian invasion into Ukraine in February 2022 that the U.S. has provided military weapons and equipment through presidential drawdown authority. The program allows the Pentagon to quickly take items from its own stocks and deliver them to Ukraine.
Because the aid packages are generally planned in advance and recently included many of the same critical weapons for the battlefront, the contents weren't likely chosen based on the weekend rebellion by Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner mercenary group that he controls. It isn’t clear if Ukrainian forces will be able to take advantage of the disarray in the Russian ranks, in the aftermath of the short-lived revolt.
But, the missiles and heavy vehicles can be used as Ukraine tries to capitalize on what has been a growing feud between the Wagner Group leader and Russia’s military brass, with simmering questions about how many of Prigozhin's forces may leave the fight.
The mercenaries left Ukraine to seize a military headquarters in a southern Russian city and moved hundreds of miles toward Moscow before turning around after less than 24 hours on Saturday.
The Pentagon in a statement said the U.S. will send 30 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 25 of the armored Stryker vehicles to Ukraine, along with missiles for the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and the Patriot air defense systems. The package includes Javelin and high-speed anti-radiation (HARM) missiles, demolition munitions, obstacle-clearing equipment and a wide range of artillery rounds and other ammunition.
White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton said the new package “includes key capabilities" that will support Ukraine’s counteroffensive operations and strengthen its air defenses.
According to the Pentagon, the U.S. has delivered more than $15 billion in weapons and equipment from its stocks to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, and has committed an additional $6.2 billion in supplies that haven't yet been identified. The more than $6 billion extra is the result of an accounting error, because the military services overestimated the value of the weapons they pulled off the shelves and sent to Ukraine over the past year.
More broadly, the U.S. has also promised to send more than $16.7 billion in longer-term funding for various weapons, training and other equipment through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and an additional roughly $2 billion in foreign military financing.
The U.S. has at least $1.2 billion in drawdown authority that hasn't yet been committed but will expire at the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30. The remaining $1.9 billion in USAI funds does not expire until the end of the next fiscal year, in September 2024.
Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.