The US is sending Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine for the first time as part of the Biden administration’s new $350 million military aid package for the country that was announced last Friday.
The Biden administration recently approved the delivery of US-made Stingers from the Baltic states to Ukraine, but this plan is the first time that the US will be directly supplying the missiles.
Since the 2014 US-backed coup in Kyiv, the US has provided Ukraine with over $2.7 billion in military aid. President Obama was initially hesitant to send Ukraine lethal weapons for fear of provoking Russia. President Trump first took the step to send arms to the Ukrainians in 2017 when he signed off on the delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The US has also provided Ukraine with small arms, ammunition, and armed patrol boats. The Stingers mark a significant step in US military aid to Ukraine, and the move is sure to further escalate tensions with Moscow.
Stingers are shoulder-fired missiles that can be used to shoot down Russian helicopters. The US infamously provided Stingers to the Afghan Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Many hawks in Washington are openly comparing their plans to arm Ukraine to US support for the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union.
US allies have also pledged to send Stingers to Ukraine, including Germany, which is breaking from its new government’s policy of not sending weapons to conflict zones. At this point, it’s not clear how the Western powers plan to deliver the weapons to the Ukrainians. Last week, the Pentagon said it was looking into alternative ways to deliver the arms since Ukraine’s airspace is no longer safe.
Hungary, which shares a small border with Ukraine, has said it won’t allow its territory to be used to transport weapons into Ukraine since the deliveries could be targeted by Russia. Ukraine’s defense minister has floated the idea of shipping the arms to Poland, where they can be taken across the border.