Inside Biden’s secretive weapons shipment to Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier smokes at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, Donetsk region, Ukraine, in December 2021. Photo AP

CNN successfully raised NatSec Daily’s collective eyebrow with this tidbit buried deep in a Monday evening story: The United States secretly greenlit weapons transfers to Ukraine in the middle of a tense standoff with Russia.

It is reported by UA with reference to the Politico.

“In late December, the Biden administration quietly authorized an additional $200 million in security assistance to Ukraine,” the story’s five reporters wrote. “The security package authorized the shipment of much of the same defensive equipment the US has provided in the past, including small arms and ammunition, secure radios, medical equipment, spare parts and other equipment.”

Your friendly neighborhood newsletter team and our Politico colleagues worked over the last 24 hours to track down more information on this transfer, and here’s what we now know.

The $200 million was approved as part of President Joe Bsden’s drawdown authority, which empowers him to have the secretary of State ask the secretary of Defense to deliver items from existing Pentagon stock to a country in peril. The president’s team is then required to tell Congress “that an unforeseen emergency required immediate military assistance,” per the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s website.

Multiple congressional staffers said they first heard of this drawdown authorization during a recent classified briefing. Furthermore, they said, none of the $200 million in weaponry has gone to Ukraine yet, as the drawdown process was just completed.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who talked to NatSec Daily, and a person familiar with the package who spoke with our own Paul McLeary, said the United States will send radar systems and some maritime equipment, though it’s unclear when the first deliveries will be made.

The Zelensky adviser added that the Ukrainians were informed of the forthcoming aid last month “at the senior level.”

“Given that U.S. intelligence consistently suggests that Russia may launch a full-blown invasion using all its military might, this aid would allow Ukraine to inflict additional damage on Russia but would not significantly alter the outcome,” the adviser said.

This isn’t the first time Biden has used his drawdown authority: In August, he committed the United States to send $60 million in military aid to Kyiv shortly ahead of a meeting with Zelensky. Part of that tranche, including small arms and ammo, were delivered to Ukraine last month.

“We have been providing defensive assistance to Ukraine, including through deliveries that have taken place in just the last few weeks. We will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead through a range of mechanisms, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative,” a State Department spokesperson told us.

Our own Lee Hudson, speaking to someone familiar with the plan, said U.S. military services are wary of seeing their equipment shipped off to Eastern Europe. After all, replacing transferred materials takes time, thus leaving them with a temporary weapons gap.

Other countries may also send some of their equipment to help Ukraine. In December, news broke that Estonia was weighing transferring Javelin anti-tank missiles and 122mm howitzers to Kyiv, but was waiting on approval from the U.S. to send the Javelins, as well as Germany and Finland, from which Estonia originally sourced the howitzers.

During a Sunday appearance on ABC News, Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN said: “We have been providing significant defensive assistance to Ukraine, including as recently as the last couple of weeks. Almost half a billion dollars this year alone. That’s continued, that will continue, and if there is further aggression by Russia against Ukraine, we’ll see even more of that. We are making sure, to the best of our ability – and other allies and partners are doing the same – that Ukraine has the means to defend itself.

Read also: Russia’s Military Escalation Against Ukraine (LIVE UPDATES)