The Biden administration is urgently prioritising air defence and energy equipment for Ukraine as Russia steps up attacks on its neighbour’s critical infrastructure in the approach to winter.
In Bucharest on Tuesday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US will provide more than $53mn in funds for critical energy infrastructure supplies such as distribution transformers, circuit breakers and surge arresters.
“This equipment will be rapidly delivered to Ukraine on an emergency basis to help Ukrainians persevere through the winter,” the US state department said.
In recent weeks, Russia has stepped up its attempts to leave vast swaths of Ukraine without water and power as it faces setbacks elsewhere on the battlefield, and western nations are increasingly tailoring new military assistance packages accordingly.
The Pentagon last week said it would provide more than 200 generators to Ukraine’s military, in addition to ammunition for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (Nasams), to help counter Russia’s attacks, after providing other ammunition and air defence systems earlier this month. Officials also promised more weapons, including Nasams.
A senior defence official said: “There may be a mix of air defence capabilities that we can provide very soon and others that we can provide down the road and we really are looking at all possible capabilities.”
Defence officials on Tuesday said they are also scouring US and ally stockpiles for additional air defences to send to Ukraine, labelling them “an urgent priority”.
“We are watching Russia continue to double down on its strategy to try to inflict pain on the Ukrainian people, to try to break their will,” the senior defence official said.
Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in an interview with the Financial Times that he has repeatedly expressed Kyiv’s urgent need for specific military assistance to US and UK military and national security officials.
“Our partners know what exactly we need for today, for the next week, and next month. But still, we have some questions we are discussing which we think it’s necessary finally to settle,” he said. “I mean [questions about] tanks, I mean long-distance missiles, I mean planes, I mean, of course, air defence.”
Yermak said the Biden administration had told him more air defences from the US were “possible by the end of this year”.
“We need these weapons to win. We are sure how we use them,” he said. “We showed that we are able not just to defend ourselves but to liberate our territories.”
“Without these, our children can’t go to school,” he added.