WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is sending Ukraine $400 million more in military aid and establishing a security assistance headquarters in Germany that will oversee all weapons transfers and military training for Ukraine, the Pentagon announced Friday.
Notably, the $400 million in aid includes funding for additional air defenses to help Ukraine better defend itself against escalating Russian missile and drone attacks that have badly damaged the country’s power and water infrastructure.
“We recognize the acute need for air defense at this critical moment when Russia and Russian forces are raining missiles and Iranian drones down on the civilian infrastructure of this country,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at a press conference in Kyiv Friday following a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Sullivan is one of the highest ranking U.S. officials to visit Kyiv, and his trip had not been previously announced for security reasons.
The $400 million in aid also includes contracts for 1,100 Phoenix Ghost drones, funding to refurbish 45 tanks and an additional 40 riverine boats.
The Phoenix Ghost drone is an armed “kamikaze drone” that explodes on contact with its target.
The T-72 tanks are being pulled from existing defense industry inventory in the Czech Republic — paid for by The Netherlands — and will have advanced optics, communications and armor packages. They are part of a total package of 90 of the T-72 tanks that will be sent to Ukraine through 2023, the Pentagon said.
Additional air defense will be provided through Hawk surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles that will be refurbished provided to Ukraine to assist in its air defenses against drones.
The missile system is no longer in use by the U.S. but the missiles, once refurbished, will give Ukraine another medium-range air defense option, Singh said. Hawk missiles have a longer range than the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles the U.S. has previously provided.
However, because the weapons are being procured through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative they will not be ready for immediate transfer to Kyiv. Weapons provided through USAI funding are obtained through longer-term industry contracts instead of being drawn from U.S. weapons stockpiles.
The new command post, called the Security Assistance Group Ukraine, signals a more permanent, long-term program to continue to aid Kyiv in its fight against Russia, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters at the Pentagon.
The new command post that will oversee this aid will be led by a three-star-level senior officer and have about 300 personnel based in Germany who will monitor the weapons assistance and training programs, said U.S. Army Europe spokesman Col. Martin O’Donnell.
The U.S. has committed more than $18.2 billion in weapons and other equipment to Ukraine since the war began on Feb. 24.
The new command post is being established as the U.S. is focusing on longer-term efforts to improve accountability for the billions of dollars in U.S. weaponry that has flowed into Ukraine and to ensure it does not fall into the wrong hands.
Last week the State Department outlined how it is trying to keep some of those more advanced weapons from being pilfered or falling into Russian hands but admitted that ensuring weapons accountability is particularly difficult during an active war and when there is no major U.S. presence on the ground.
The plan includes limited on-the-ground monitoring by U.S. military personnel, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Gen. Pat Ryder said this week.
“When and where security conditions permit, a small team comprised of U.S. Embassy Kyiv – Office of the Defense Attaché personnel have conducted multiple inspections of U.S. security assistance deliveries within the last couple months at locations in Ukraine,” Ryder said. “These locations are not near the frontlines of Russia’s war against Ukraine.”