The US is going the long way with the latest military aid to Ukraine

TThe $3 billion military aid package that President Joe Biden announced for Ukraine on Wednesday shows that his administration expects the war with Russia to last many months or years and signals that Washington is in a battle for duration.

The latest aid package is the largest yet and includes weapons that won’t appear on the battlefield for a year or more. The promise of continued supplies of sophisticated U.S.-made weapons into the future, as opposed to previous tranches designed to aid in ongoing battles or upcoming counteroffensives, signals to Western allies Ukraine and Russia that the U.S. intends to stick to war regardless. the daily profits or losses.

“The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue to fight to defend their sovereignty,” Biden it said in a statement, announcing the aid package. “This will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, unmanned aerial countermeasures systems and radars to ensure that it can continue to defend itself in the long term.”

The package, which came on the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union, will include 245,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition, surface-to-air missile systems and laser-guided missile systems. Although previous weapons were drawn from existing U.S. stockpiles to speed delivery, many of those items have not yet been manufactured and could take up to two years to reach the battlefield, administration officials say.

The new help it also includes funding for US troops to continue providing weapons training to the Ukrainian military elsewhere in Europe for several years. The administration has repeatedly insisted on this American troops will not fight in Ukrainebut Biden sent thousands of forces to surrounding countries, mainly Poland, to provide on-the-ground guidance to Ukraine and reassurance to allies.

Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters at the Pentagon that Russian President Vladimir Putin was wrong to believe that Russia could win the long game by outdoing the Ukrainians in their will to fight and the will of the international community to continue your support. “We are not just providing aid to Ukraine right now. It will be a steady flow of aid that will continue for many months and years,” Kahl said. “We think it’s a real challenge to Putin’s misjudgment that he can just sit it out and wait it out.” So it’s supposed to affect his calculus.

The administration hopes that Ukraine can turn continued supplies of advanced weapons into lasting tactical success. Ukraine’s military faces an escalating battle in the east against a much larger, more technologically advanced enemy, but the war-torn nation has so far managed to slow the Russian advance. This is due in part to a growing arsenal of Western-supplied long-range artillery.

Read more: Inside the historic mission to deliver aid and arms to Ukraine

Ukraine already has 16 US-made highly mobile artillery missile systems (HIMARS), a wheel-mounted launcher that fires six precision-guided rockets that more than double the range of Kyiv forces’ 20-mile artillery. The systems have allowed the Ukrainians to strike Russian logistics centers, command and control nodes and other positions beyond the range of much of Moscow’s artillery.

With Russian forces bogged down on the eastern front, the conflict has become a war of attrition. Thousands of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the past six months in fierce fighting that has left more than 5,500 civilians dead and created 6.6 million refugees, according to UN estimates. Airstrikes continue daily. The US State Department urged US citizens to leave Ukraine in a new advisory Mondaysaying that “Russia is stepping up efforts to strike Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days.”

Since its last invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the Russian military has maintained a permanent presence in two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, known as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, which are run by puppet governments installed, armed, funded and controlled by Russian security services . Russia’s military has expanded into surrounding territories following Putin’s Feb. 24 military order to attack Ukraine by air, land and sea, capturing and occupying territory in Kharkiv, Kherson and Zaporizhia.

The Kremlin intends to hold “mock” referendums to create “republics” in these newly occupied territories starting as early as this week, according to John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman. “We expect Russia to try to manipulate the results of these referendums to falsely claim that the Ukrainian people want to join Russia,” he said on Wednesday. “Since they are clearly having trouble making geographical gains in Ukraine, they are trying to win this through false political means by holding fake referendums to give the appearance of legitimacy to their occupation.”

Read more: Inside Ukraine’s Secret Effort to Train Pilots for US Aircraft

Putin, for his part, has said he wants the war to end, but has provided no details of a future deal or good faith evidence that he is actually willing to agree to one. He accused the US and the West of providing weapons to Kyiv that would push them to fight Russia “to the last Ukrainian”.

Bolstered by recent battlefield successes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi has vowed that his forces will not only repel Russia’s recent offensives, but also retake Russian-occupied territory, such as the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Putin annexed in 2014. “What is it the end of the war for us? We used to say: peace. Now we say: victory,” he said Wednesday in an Independence Day speech. “We are not going to sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun to our heads.” For us, the most dangerous iron is not rockets, planes and tanks, but shackles.

The White House, which has been forced to adapt its strategy at almost every stage of the conflict, says it ultimately hopes diplomacy will lead to an end to the war. But the lack of progress in negotiations or on the battlefield has prompted the US to devise more aggressive strategies to deter Putin.

“We really seem to be resigning ourselves to years of war rather than hoping that any ‘fall offensive’ from Ukraine can change the battlefield enough to create conditions that make serious negotiations possible,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military an analyst at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington.

The latest round of security assistance that falls under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative is the 20th package of weapons and equipment, totaling $13.7 billion, that the US has committed to Ukraine since the start of the war.

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Write to WJ Hennigan c [email protected].

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