Updated Apr 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden says new $800 million Ukraine package will include helicopters

Destroyed tank in Mariupol
A destroyed tank in Mariupol on March 26. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Biden announced Wednesday that he has approved the transfer of helicopters, artillery systems and armored vehicles as part of a package of $800 million in additional military aid to Ukraine.

Why it matters: The U.S. and its European allies are drastically ramping up the scale and scope of their military assistance ahead of a massive Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region, which officials believe will dictate the trajectory of the rest of the war.

  • Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday afternoon for just under an hour before publicly announcing the new batch of aid.
  • "The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we are providing to devastating effect. As Russia prepares to intensify its attack in the Donbas region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself," Biden said in a statement.

Details: The $800 million package includes, among other things:

  • 11 Mi-17 helicopters originally earmarked for the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces, prior to the fall of Kabul
  • 18 howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds
  • 300 Switchblade drones
  • 500 Javelin missiles
  • 200 M113 armored personnel carriers
  • 100 armored high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles
  • 30,000 sets of body armor
  • Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protective equipment

The big picture: The new package, which will be funded through the president's authority to draw from existing U.S. stocks, brings the total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to $2.5 billion since Russia's invasion again.

  • The Pentagon released a fact sheet last week breaking down the specific weaponry the U.S. has provided to Ukraine, marking a significant departure from the early weeks of the war when officials were hesitant to discuss any military aid in detail.
  • The list included 50 million bullets, over 5,000 Javelin anti-armor systems and over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems — key weapons that will also be included in the new package of aid.

Between the lines: The U.S. and its allies are no longer attempting to distinguish between "offensive" and "defensive" weapons, as Russian atrocities mount and it becomes clear the war is likely to become a protracted battle for territory in the east.

  • "[W]e have gotten to a place in the United States, and across many members of the NATO alliance, where the key question is, 'What does Ukraine need, and how can we provide it to them?'" White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.
  • Biden said in his statement Wednesday that the administration will continue facilitating the transfer of equipment from allies in Europe, such as the S-300 missile system Slovakia sent to Ukraine last week after receiving a Patriot battery from the U.S.

What to watch: Zelensky published a detailed list earlier Wednesday titled, "What Ukraine needs ASAP to win the war," with a focus on six categories:

1. Heavy artillery

  • Artillery ammunition: As much as possible
  • Artillery cannons: At least 100 units + ammo
  • Multiple rocket launch systems: At least 100 units + ammo

2. Heavy armor

  • Armored vehicles: 600 units
  • Tanks: 300 units

3. Air defense systems

  • S-300 or BUK or comparable Western systems: At least a few dozen each

4. Attack aircrafts

  • Su-24 jets: At least 30 units
  • Missiles with 30km+ range: At least 30 units

5. Anti-ship missiles

  • Harpoon or RBS 15 anti-ship missile: 300 units

6. Light vehicles

  • Pickups and/or trucks: At least 300 units

What they're saying: "This military support will enable Ukraine to reclaim territory lost since Feb. 24 and bring Russia to the negotiating table — not as a superpower throwing ultimatums, but as a neighbor willing to make real concessions," Zelensky said in his plea to allies.

  • "However, without additional weaponry, this war will become an endless bloodbath, spreading misery, suffering, and destruction."
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