The United States and some of its European allies have announced significant new arms donations to Ukraine, including armoured vehicles and heavy weaponry, ahead of a crucial meeting on bolstering the country’s defences nearly a year after Russia invaded.
The US said its package of military support – which includes armoured personnel carriers, air defence systems and tens of thousands of rockets and artillery rounds – was worth some $2.5bn. There will be 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 90 Stryker Armoured Personnel Carriers, the US Defense Department said in a statement on Thursday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was a “significant new security assistance package to help Ukraine continue to defend itself against Russia’s brutal war.” The latest package brings US military assistance for Ukraine to some $27.4bn, he added.
Earlier, the United Kingdom, in a joint statement with defence ministers and representatives of nine European countries, said it would send 600 Brimstone missiles to Kyiv, while Denmark promised 19 French-made Caesar howitzers, and Sweden its Archer artillery system, a modern mobile howitzer Ukraine has been requesting for months.
“We recognise that equipping Ukraine to push Russia out of its territory is as important as equipping them to defend what they already have,” the statement said.
“Together we will continue supporting Ukraine to move from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil. The new level of required combat power is only achieved by combinations of main battle tank squadrons, beneath air and missile defence, operating alongside divisional artillery groups, and further deep precision fires enabling targeting of Russian logistics and command nodes in occupied territory.”
The announcements came ahead of a meeting of defence and other officials from some 50 countries, including all 30 members of NATO, at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to discuss support for Kyiv amid brutal battles in Ukraine’s east and Russia’s continued air attacks on its cities.
Looking ahead to the German talks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late on Thursday that Kyiv expected “strong decisions” from the meeting.
“We are, in fact, now waiting for a decision from one European capital, which will activate the prepared chains of cooperation regarding tanks,” Zelenskyy said in a video address.
“We are preparing for the Ramstein meeting tomorrow. We are expecting strong decisions. We are expecting a powerful military aid package from the United States,” he added.
Pressure on Germany to provide its modern Leopard 2 tanks is intensifying, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government so far appearing reluctant to authorise their transfer for fear of provoking Moscow. Germany has veto power over any potential transfer.
The Kremlin warned on Thursday that sending heavy weapons capable of striking Russian territory would be construed as an escalation.
“Potentially, this is extremely dangerous,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “It will mean bringing the conflict to a whole new level which, of course, will not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security.”
Ukraine and Russia have both relied primarily on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, which have been destroyed in their hundreds during the war that began on February 24 last year when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops across the border in what he continues to call a “special military operation”.