Washington | The US will send Ukraine about $500 million in ammunition and equipment and will spend more than $2 billion to buy an array of munitions, radar and other weapons in the future, U.S. officials said, as the Ukrainian troops prepare for a spring offensive against Russian forces.
The ammunition rounds, along with grenade launchers and vehicles, will be taken from military stockpiles so they can be in the war zone quickly, the officials said.
The $2.1 billion in longer-term aid, which is being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, will buy missiles for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS, as well as radar and other weapons, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the aid had not yet been announced. An announcement is expected as soon as Tuesday.
The new weapons and funding come as Russia has continued to bombard Ukraine with long-range missiles and the hotly contested battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut drags on. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that unless his country wins that fight, Russia could begin building international support for a deal that could require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises.
Zelenskyy said if Moscow's forces take Bakhmut, then Russian President Vladimir Putin would “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran.” The latest U.S. package, with its mix of short-term and long-term aid, includes a wide variety of ammunition from Pentagon stocks, 23 million rounds of small arms ammunition and 200,000 grenades, as well as funding for more high-tech weapons, including counter drone rocket systems, air surveillance radar and satellite communications terminals and services.
It brings the total amount of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to more than $35 billion since Russia invaded in February 2022. Defense leaders testifying on Capitol Hill last week said the U.S. is prepared to support Ukraine for as long as needed.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed that sentiment on Monday, as the alliance's foreign ministers were preparing to meet in Brussels. The ministers on Tuesday “will discuss how we can step up our support, including by continuing to strengthen Ukraine's armed forces,” Stoltenberg said. “Our support is for the long haul.” The White House said last week that it has new evidence that Russia is looking again to North Korea for weapons as it also prepares for a spring offensive. Russia would provide Pyongyang with needed food and other commodities in return.
U.S. officials also are concerned that the president of Belarus has warned that Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed in his country, along with part of Moscow's tactical nuclear arsenal.
Putin has said he planned to place tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus. Those weapons are comparatively short-range and low-yield. Strategic nuclear weapons, such as missile-borne warheads, would be a greater threat.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, while talking up the possibility of nuclear weapons, has also called for a cease-fire in Ukraine. He said a truce must have no preconditions and all movement of troops and weapons must be halted.
Russia, however, has rejected a cease in fighting, claiming that Ukraine has refused to enter talks under pressure from its Western allies.