The Biden administration is planning to send helicopters as part of military aid to Ukraine. Russia has positioned more than 100,000 soldiers near the borders of Ukraine, threatening an invasion in case its demands are not met. One of Moscow’s demands is a guarantee that Ukraine will never be made a member of NATO. The U.S. has been sending military equipment to Ukraine to help bolster the country’s defenses.
In a Jan. 21 press briefing, White House press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted that President Joe Biden has taken “a lot of steps” to defend Ukraine. Washington provided the European country with “more security assistance” in 2021 than at “any point in history.”
Last year, the U.S.supplied Ukraine with $650 million in security assistance, which brings the total spending by the U.S. on Ukraine to $2.7 billion since 2014. “There’s more deliveries coming,” she said. Biden has authorized the presidential drawdown authority to speed up lethal aid to Ukraine.
Washington has also sanctioned third-party transfers, thus allowing American partners and allies to move U.S.-originating equipment from their inventories to help the European nation.
“Specifically, the State Department has given the go-ahead for three NATO Allies to rush anti-armor missiles and other U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine…In identifying additional equipment held in DOD inventories that can be delivered under the Excess Defense Articles program, among other mechanisms, we recently notified Congress of our intent to deliver Mi-17 helicopters,” Psaki said in the briefing.
On Jan. 22, the first U.S. shipment of assistance arrived in Ukraine. The $200 million package included roughly 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv tweeted that the shipment is a demonstration of the United State’s commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defenses against growing Russian aggression.
Meanwhile, Moscow is shifting two divisions of its S-400 missile defense systems into Belarus. According to the Ministry of Defense, this is being done as part of Russia’s upcoming military exercises in the country scheduled for next month.
Once the missile systems arrive in Belarus, Russian forces are expected to fortify the position. The S-400 is often considered to be one of the best surface-to-air missile systems in operation at present. It has been sold to multiple countries like China, Turkey, and India. Washington has long lobbied to block the sale of the S-400.
The February military drills in Belarus are being held to assess the quality of military coordination between the two nations. According to Oleg Voinov, a senior Belarusian military official, both militaries will “practice redeploying troops and creating task forces within a short period of time in dangerous directions,” with one of the goals of such drills being to reinforce the state border. The exercises are scheduled to be held between Feb. 10 and 20.
The military drills will take place at Belarus’ borders with Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland. In addition to troops, Russia has also deployed a division of Pantsir-S air defense systems and 12 SU-35 fighter jets to Belarus.
Combined with the S-400 systems, Russia will have a large deployment in Belarus, which will give Moscow the ability to attack Ukraine from multiple directions. In a potential conflict, Ukraine will have to face off Russian forces from Russia in the east and southeast, Belarus in the north, and the Crimean peninsula in the south, states an article by the Atlantic Council.
“Basing troops in Belarus provides Russia with one particularly important logistical advantage. It gives Moscow the ability to reach Kyiv, which is just 90 kilometers (55.92 miles) from the Belarusian border, without crossing the Dnipro River. Military analysts fear that if the Kremlin launches simultaneous offensives from the north, south, and east, such a multi-pronged attack could severely stretch Ukraine’s defenses,” the article states.