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$39M U.S. anti-tank missiles sale to Ukraine approved: Reports

Australian Army soldiers fire a Javelin anti-tank missile during Excercise Chong Ju at the Puckapunyal Military Base some 100 kilometres north of Melbourne on May 9
Soldiers fire a Javelin anti-tank missile during a live-fire demonstration north of Melbourne, Australia, in May. Photo: William West/AFP/Getty Images

The $39 million U.S. sale of 150 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 2 missile launchers to Ukraine has been approved by the State Department and informally signed off by Congress, Bloomberg first reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: Ukraine is at the center of a whistleblower complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The issue of U.S. military aid "played a role in initiating the impeachment inquiry," Politico notes.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Trump in their July 25 phone call "we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States," a White House memo shows. Trump replied, "I would like you to do us a favor though" before asking him to find out about a CrowdStrike conspiracy theory, per Axios cybersecurity reporter Joe Uchill.

The big picture: AP and other news outlets briefed by officials on the arms sale, which is expected to be confirmed officially soon, report that the deal is separate to the nearly $400 million in military aid Trump confirmed last month he had withheld from Ukraine. That aid has been released, according to ABC.

  • Per Reuters, the weapons deal was finalized weeks before Trump’s call with Zelensky in which they discussed the possibility of Ukraine investigating 2020 candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Background: Politico notes that Javelins have featured in American military support to Ukraine since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, pointing to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service showing that the U.S. has provided $1.5 billion in military assistance to the Ukrainian government from 2014 to June this year.