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New US military aid package to Ukraine expected to be worth around $1 billion


John Hamilton/US Army

In this handout photo from the US Army, an early version of an Army Tactical Missile System is tested December 14, 2021, at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.



CNN
 — 

The Biden administration is preparing a new aid package for Ukraine that is expected to be worth around $1 billion, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

The Senate passed the legislation Tuesday night, sending it to the White House for Biden’s signature as soon as Wednesday.

In briefings to Congress in recent weeks, administration officials have indicated that the US will likely send Ukraine long-range ATACMS, or Army Tactical Missile Systems, for the first time as part of the new aid package, three of the sources said.

Last fall the US first sent Ukraine the midrange variant of the ATACMS missile system, which can reach about 100 miles, while the longer-range version can reach as far as 190 miles.

Ukrainian officials have been asking the US both in private and in public for the long-range missile to target deeper behind Russian lines. American officials have resisted, citing both supplies and further provoking Moscow as excuses.

But US officials have been describing the situation on the Ukrainian battlefield in increasingly dire terms over the last several months, as US aid stalled amid gridlock in Congress over the administration’s $60 billion supplemental funding request.

CIA Director Bill Burns testified earlier this month that Ukraine could lose the war by the end of this year without US support, and the top US general for Europe, EUCOM commander Gen. Chris Cavoli, told Congress that the Russians have such an advantage in artillery ammunition that they will soon be outfiring the Ukrainians 10-to-1. Broadly, Russia has maintained a “significant quantitative advantage” over Ukraine in terms of munitions, manpower and equipment, a NATO official said earlier this month.

Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday that he hopes ATACMS missiles will be sent to Ukraine by the end of next week.

“It should have happened six months ago. The next best time is right now. This week, we’ve seen the Ukrainians overperform if you step back for a moment and think about the fact that for most of my life, most of America’s defense forces were focused on Russia,” Warner said. “Getting this additional equipment as quickly as possible, I hope once this gets to the President by Tuesday or Wednesday, that these shipments will be literally launched with that longer range ATACMS.”

The package is also expected to include more desperately needed munitions for Ukraine, including air defense and artillery ammunition, Bradley fighting vehicles and demolition weaponry, the sources said.

The text of the legislation passed by both chambers of Congress requires the administration to transfer the coveted longer-range ATACMS “as soon as practicable,” unless the president determines that doing so would be detrimental to US national security interests.

The military aid will be sourced from the US’ own stockpiles through a funding mechanism known as presidential drawdown authority, or PDA, and will be the first PDA package for Ukraine since March. It will be significantly larger than that package, however, which was worth only around $300 million that the Pentagon was able to scrounge together from cost savings elsewhere in the department.

A White House official declined to comment on the contents of the PDA except to say that the US is “prepared to quickly send military aid to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield and air defense needs as soon as the supplemental passes the Senate and is signed into law.”

US European Command is working to process the weaponry so that it can flow into Ukraine as efficiently as possible, officials told CNN.

Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told lawmakers earlier this month that the Pentagon could begin transferring the aid “within a week or two” after the legislation passed.

This story has been updated with additional information.



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