The US is sending Soviet air defense systems that it secretly acquired to Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing anonymous US officials.
The report said that over the decades, the US acquired a small number of Soviet air defense systems so they could be examined by US intelligence. One US official said the systems being sent to Ukraine include the SA-8, also known as the 9K33 OSA, a mobile surface-to-air missile system that the Soviet Union developed in the 1960s.
Ukraine has been pleading with the US and its NATO allies to send more advanced anti-aircraft missiles than the shoulder-fired ones they have been sending. Ukraine is seeking Soviet-designed S-300 missile systems, but the report said they are not included in the weapons being sent by Washington.
Ukraine’s military is only familiar with Soviet-made weapons, so the US cannot send systems such as the Patriot since it would require lengthy training. Slovakia has said it’s willing to send Ukraine S-300s as part of this effort if it receives a replacement from its NATO allies. Germany and the Netherlands have both announced that they are deploying Patriot missiles to Slovakia, which could fast track the S-300 delivery.
By sending weapons into Ukraine, the US and NATO are risking provoking Russia. Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that any weapons shipments entering Ukraine would be considered “legitimate targets.” His warning came after President Biden announced a fresh $800 million arms package for Ukraine.