Biden Admin Prioritizes Ukraine for Air Defense Missiles

Ukraine will be given priority status for interceptor orders, but it will not affect Israel or Taiwan.

The Biden administration will begin redirecting deliveries of new batches of air-defense missiles to Ukraine, said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Mr. Kirby said that Ukrainian forces are “in desperate need of additional air defense capabilities” amid a particularly heightened campaign of Russian air and missile strikes.

“We have continued to dig deep and provide Ukraine with a variety of air defense systems and interceptor missiles from our own stockpiles, including those of the Patriot system, NASAMS [National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System], and of course, the Hawks [air-defense missiles],” he said during a June 20 press call.

“Many of our allies and partners have stepped up in historic ways as well. But obviously, more is needed and it’s needed now.”

In light of these heightened Russian strikes, Mr. Kirby said the U.S. government will move deliveries of air defense missiles for Ukraine ahead of those for other countries who have ordered those same weapons and are awaiting deliveries.

“The United States firmly believes that this is the best course of action right now to support Ukraine while still ensuring other partners receive the air defense missiles and capabilities that they’ve committed to purchase, again, on a delayed timeline,” he said.

Mr. Kirby said the U.S. government expects to be able to deliver new batches of Patriot missiles to Ukraine “over the coming weeks” and “certainly before the end of the summer.”

He said the focus will remain on bolstering Ukraine’s air defense for about the next year and a half.

“We’ll provide [Ukraine] enough capabilities over the rest of this fiscal year. And of course, all next fiscal year. So about 16 months will be the focus of the timeframe to fill out Ukraine’s inventory, and then after that, the countries that have been asked to delay will start to get their deliveries,” Mr. Kirby said.

He gave assurances that this reprioritization of air defense missiles for Ukraine would not affect U.S. deliveries of similar systems to Israel as it deals with rocket attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah, or to Taiwan as it contends with long-running tensions with neighboring China.

The White House official said the U.S. government has notified other countries affected by this reprioritization of military assistance and said they’ve generally been understanding and in many cases “fully supportive” of the decision.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has increasingly asked his Western backers for help blunting long-range strikes in recent weeks, as Russian forces have increasingly appeared to fire long-range weapons within the relative safety of their borders, which then hit targets inside Ukrainian territory.

The Biden administration has given some sign-off for Kyiv’s forces to use U.S.-donated weapons to intercept long-range weapons and hit other Russian targets inside Russia’s borders before they can strike Ukrainian territory.

Still, the Zelenskyy government has signaled a need for additional resources to stop Russian weapons over Ukrainian airspace.

Last week, President Joe Biden and Mr. Zelenskyy signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement, which specifically includes a U.S. commitment to help sustain Ukrainian air defenses and their Patriot missile systems, along with other measures of assistance.

While Ukraine is getting military assistance from the United States and other Western supporters, Russia appears focused on expanding its own international security partnerships to sustain its war in Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week that China has been the main supporter of the Russian war effort in Ukraine.

The U.S. government has assessed that Iran and North Korea have supplied Russia with other weapons, such as missiles, explosive-laden one-way attack drones, and rounds of ammunition.

Mr. Kirby said during the press call that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit this week to North Korea to sign a new bilateral partnership agreement is a sign of his desperation and fear of isolation on the global stage.

“[Russia is] reaching out to North Korea for missiles … they’re still getting drones from Iran. They don’t have a lot of friends in the world. And they’re trying to do everything they can to pull on the strings of the friends that they do have,” Mr. Kirby said.

“Russia is absolutely isolated on the world stage.”


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