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US prioritizes Patriot deliveries to Ukraine amid intensified Russian assault

US prioritizes Patriot deliveries to Ukraine amid intensified Russian assault U.S. soldiers stand next to the long-range air dfence system Patriot near Siauliai, Lithuania, July 20, 2017. (Reuters)
By Newsroom
Jun 20, 2024 8:25 PM

The Biden administration will expedite the delivery of Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine by delaying shipments to other countries, a White House spokesman announced Thursday.

The decision, described as “difficult but necessary,” aims to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses in the face of increased Russian attacks.

John F. Kirby, the White House spokesman, emphasized Ukraine’s urgent need for Patriot interceptor missiles as Russia escalates its strikes on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure. “This decision demonstrates our commitment to supporting our partners when they’re in existential danger,” Kirby said. He reassured that the move would not impact weapon deliveries to Israel or Taiwan.

The Patriot system, a cornerstone of the Pentagon’s air defense capabilities, was first provided to Ukraine in December 2022. “The broader message here to Russia is clear,” Kirby added. “If you think you’re going to be able to outlast Ukraine, and if you think you’re going to be able to outlast those of us who are supporting Ukraine, you’re just flat-out wrong.”

The administration’s prioritization of Ukraine’s defense needs has been described as a “rather extraordinary” policy shift, reflecting the critical moment in the ongoing conflict. The delivery of these systems to Ukraine will begin this summer, though it remains unclear how many other countries will be affected by the delays.

The prioritization will place Ukraine at the forefront of receiving Patriot and NASAM interceptors, consequently delaying shipments to other nations. State Department and Pentagon officials are conducting an “intensive diplomatic effort” to inform the affected countries of the new timelines.

Ukraine is set to receive its first shipments of these air defense systems this summer, with the policy adjustment expected to last for 16 months. Congressional leaders were briefed on the change, although details on which countries are impacted have not been disclosed, causing some frustration among lawmakers.

Despite the delays, the official indicated that many countries have shown understanding and appreciation for the necessity of this decision. “If any of our partners were in an existential situation like the one that Ukraine is in right now, we would move heaven and earth to help them,” the official said.

This shift is part of the Biden administration’s broader strategy to ensure Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s ongoing assault. Last month, US President Biden authorized Ukraine to strike within Russian territory using American munitions, marking a significant policy change.

The administration’s approach adapts to the evolving battlefield dynamics and aligns with NATO and G7 efforts to support Ukraine amid uncertainties surrounding the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has indicated he might cut U.S. support for Ukraine, posing potential challenges to the country’s defense efforts.

The decision to prioritize Ukraine was initiated in mid-April by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in response to intensified Russian airstrikes and delays in U.S. congressional defense aid. The Pentagon finalized the plan in late May, aiming to ensure Ukraine receives sufficient air defense capabilities.

Biden informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of the decision during a recent meeting at the G7 summit in Italy. The leaders also announced a bilateral security pact, committing the U.S. to a decade of military assistance, training, and intelligence sharing with Ukraine.

Last Updated:  Jun 21, 2024 11:22 AM