Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is hoping that the new $40 billion Ukraine aid package passed by Congress means that the US will start supplying more advanced high-end weapons.
The bulk of the aid package is allocated for military assistance, including $11 billion in a presidential drawdown authority that allows President Biden to send weapons from US stockpiles to Ukraine. US lawmakers that have visited Ukraine in recent weeks detailed to Defense News the sort of weapons Zelensky is hoping Washington will provide.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-(WY), and Rep. Jason Crow, D-(CO) both met Zelensky recently and said he is seeking long-range rocket artillery, anti-ship missiles, and long-range drones.
Reuters reported Thursday that the US was considering sending advanced anti-ship missiles to Ukraine to help them hit Russian ships in the Black Sea, extending the battlefield where Kyiv can use US-provided weapons. The report said the US is considering sending Boeing-made Harpoon missiles and the Naval Strike Missile, which is made by Raytheon and Kongsberg.
Politico reported that the US has been hesitant to give Ukraine long-range rockets over fears that they could be used to launch attacks inside Russia, which risks an escalation with Moscow. The report said Ukrainian officials have been pleading with the US to provide Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and have grown frustrated by Washington’s hesitancy.
So far, the US has provided Ukraine with small Switchblade kamikaze drones and Phoenix Ghost drones, which have similar capabilites. Crow said Zelensky wants “more sophisticated intelligence and surveillance drones as well as attack drones that can be reused multiple times instead of the Kamikaze drones we’ve given them.” There have been several media reports that Ukraine might receive Predator drones, which the US has used for airstrikes across the Middle East and North Africa.
Biden administration officials have said that they are gearing up to send more advanced weaponry to Ukraine. “We are looking at additional high-end systems that would provide new capabilities,” Jessica Lewis, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told a Senate hearing last week.
The massive aid package is a boon for US arms makers who stand to gain long-term benefits from the war in Ukraine. The package includes funding to replenish weapons stocks that have been sent to Ukraine, including Stinger anti-aircraft and Javelin anti-tank missile systems. President Biden recently visited a Lockheed Martin facility in Alabama that produces Javelins to praise the company for making the weapons.
Besides providing Ukraine with more advanced weapons, the massive aid package allows the US to prepare for supporting Ukraine in the long term. US officials have warned that they expect a prolonged conflict and have made clear that one of the US goals in Ukraine is to hurt Russia.