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The US Department of Defence (DoD) announced a security assistance package for Ukraine valued at up to USD250 M (EUR 228.3 M) on 27 December 2023, but it is likely to be the last such US assistance Ukraine receives unless the US Congress authorises additional funds.

The latest package includes air defence capabilities, artillery and anti-tank weapons and other equipment to help Ukraine in its continued fight to counter Russia’s invasion of the country.

The latest round of assistance, which marks the 54th drawdown of military equipment for Ukraine from DoD inventories since August 2021, comes amid negotiations on Capitol Hill over President Joe Biden’s supplemental request to Congress to continue critical funding for military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. US military officials have warned that, without action from Congress, further US assistance for Ukraine could be in jeopardy at a critical time as Russia’s war approaches the two-year mark.

“We would, again, continue to urge the passage of the supplemental that we’ve submitted,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Major Generl Pat Ryder said in a briefing prior to the latest package for Ukraine being announced.

“As you look at the situation that Ukraine finds itself in, we will obviously continue to support them,” Gen Ryder said. “But it is imperative that we have the funds needed to ensure that they get the most urgent battlefield capabilities that they require.”

In a recent letter to lawmakers, DoD comptroller Michael J McCord said the department would be obligating the remaining USD 1 Bn in funds authorised by Congress to replace US inventories of weapons provided to Ukraine by the end of December.

Earlier in December Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy travelled to Washington to meet with Biden, defence officials and lawmakers. During those talks, Zelenskyy extended his gratitude for the United States’ support and underscored his country’s urgent need for that support to continue.

After meeting with Zelenskyy at the White House, Biden pledged that the US “will not walk away from Ukraine”, as he implored lawmakers to authorise additional funding.

“The brave people in Ukraine have defied [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s will at every turn, backed by the strong and unwavering support of the United States and our allies and partners in more than 50 nations in Europe and the Indo-Pacific,” Biden said. “Ukraine will emerge from this war proud, free and firmly rooted in the West unless we walk away.”

He said he would continue to provide US military assistance for as long as congressionally approved funds are available.

“Without supplemental funding, we are rapidly coming to an end of our ability to help Ukraine respond to the urgent operational demands that it has,” he said.

“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine,” he continued. “We must prove him wrong.”

More than USD 60 Bn of aid for Ukraine is stalled in Congress as Republican lawmakers argue with Democrats over US immigration policy. Republicans generally aligned with former US president Donald Trump are also sceptical that US support for Ukraine is fundamentally in US interests: a position far removed from the traditional Republican stance that was more hawkish and determined to counter Russia/the Soviet Union.

In introductory remarks ahead of Zelenskyy’s address at National Defense University in Washington, US Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III also underscored the United States’ “unshakable” commitment to supporting Ukraine. “Ukraine matters profoundly to America’s security and to the trajectory of global security in the 21st century,” Austin said. “That’s why the United States has committed more than USD 44 Bn in security assistance to Ukraine’s brave defenders.” He added that the US-led coalition of allies and partners have also contributed more than USD 37 Bn in security assistance to Ukraine.

Austin said those contributions include capabilities that “are making a crucial difference on the battlefield” and have helped Ukraine retake more than half of the territory seized by Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after his speech at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, on 11 December 2023. The Biden Administration is pushing for more Ukrainian security assistance, but Trump-aligned Republicans are holding the funding hostage over US border security issues. (Photo: USAF)

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s European allies continue to do what they can. For example, amid a prolonged onslaught against Ukrainian cities by Russian missiles and bomb-laden unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps announced on 29 December 2023 that delivery of a new package of British air defence missiles for Ukraine had commenced.

The package of around 200 air defence missiles will re-supply UK-developed air defence systems provided to Ukraine in late 2022, topping up Ukraine’s crucial air defence capability to protect its citizens, front line, and critical national infrastructure from Russian bombing and bomb-laden UAVs.

According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), these are ground-launched Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAMs) manufactured in the UK by MBDA. In the summer of 2022 a joint MoD-MBDA team developed air defence systems to fire ASRAAM from the ground for the first time.

“Within four months of initiating the surface-launched ASRAAM project, these air defence systems were developed, manufactured, trialled and Ukrainian crews trained on their usage, on UK soil, before being transferred into Ukrainian hands,” the MoD stated in a press release. “The systems have proven highly effective – with a successful hit rate reported as high as 90% against some Russian air targets. Ukrainian operators have become adept at their usage and have asked for more missiles to protect their country,” the MoD added.