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Analysis: Biden is set to unveil a $1.8 billion arms deal for Ukraine. Here’s how it could affect the war




CNN

US President Joe Biden is expected to announce $1.8 billion in additional security assistance to Ukraine during President Volodymyr Zelensky’s scheduled visit to the White House. The significant increase in aid should be highlighted by the Patriot missile defense systems that are included in the package, a US official told CNN.

There are two main deliverables: first, the Patriot missile systems. Complex, precise, and expensive, they have been described as the “gold standard” of United States air defense. NATO treasures them, and they require that the personnel operating them – nearly 100 in a battalion for each weapon – be properly trained.

The second are precision-guided munitions for Ukrainian jet aircraft. Ukraine and Russia are largely equipped with “dumb” ammunition – fired bluntly at a target. Ukraine increasingly received Western standard artillery and precision missiles, such as howitzers and HIMARS respectively.

The new deal will likely include the supply of guidance kits, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), which Ukraine can use to lock onto its unguided missiles or bombs. This will increase their accuracy and the rate at which Kyiv forces burn through munitions. Much of the $1.8 billion is expected to fund ammunition replacement and stockpiles.

These two headlines alone could have an impact on the course of the war. The most potent threat to Russia now is the constant bombardment of energy infrastructure. It is making winter colder and unbearable for some, plunging cities into darkness for up to 12 hours a day and sometimes longer, in hopes of undermining high Ukrainian morale.

Patriot air defense systems could intercept large numbers of Russian attack missiles and drones – although Ukraine already claims a high success rate; on Monday, for example, he said 30 out of 35 missiles had been stopped. The Patriot is also a sign that the best NATO technology is on the table to help Ukraine win the war, or at least hold Russia back.

In this February 20, 2020, file photo, a U.S. Air Force member stands near a Patriot missile battery at Prince Sultan Air Base in al-Kharj, Saudi Arabia.

More precision weapons are vital: they ensure that Ukraine reaches its targets, and that no civilians are left nearby. And that means Ukraine is not going through the hundreds or thousands of shells that Russia seems to be burning as it bombs the areas it wants to capture.

The ammo consumption rate for both sides will become an existential issue as the war enters its second year.

Loudly, but maybe that’s all. Kremlin watchers like to analyze Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest statements whenever US arms shipments improve Ukraine’s position. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the latest installment “leads to an aggravation of the conflict and does not bode well for Ukraine.”

But Moscow is struggling to equip and rally its conventional forces and, with the exception of its nuclear forces, seems to lack new cards to play. China and India have joined the West in open statements against the use of nuclear force, making this option even less likely.

Western analysts noted that Russia constantly complained about these deliveries, but was relatively discreet in its practical response to the crossing of what, as recently as January, could have been considered “red lines”. .

Yes. There’s a massive $45 billion aid package in the works, and while it’s not entirely military, it’s part of a constant drumbeat by the Biden administration. The message is simple: Ukraine is getting as much help as Washington can provide, running out of boots on the ground, and that help won’t stop.

Whatever the eventual truth on the matter — and military aid is opaque at the best of times — Biden wants Putin to hear only numbers in the billions, to undermine Russian resolve, push European partners to help more and make Ukraine’s resources seem limitless. .

It’s more delicate. Incoming Congress Speaker Republican Kevin McCarthy has warned that the Biden administration cannot expect a “blank check” from the new GOP-led House of Representatives.

Remnants of Trumpist “America First” elements in that party have echoed doubts about how much aid the United States should really be sending to the farthest reaches of Eastern Europe.

Realistically, the bill for Russia’s slow defeat in this dark and long conflict is relatively light for Washington, given its nearly $1 trillion annual defense budget.

Video from CNN affiliate TVN in Poland captures the moment Zelensky arrived by train in Przemysl, near the Polish-Ukrainian border, en route to Washington on Wednesday, December 21.

Zelensky’s physical appearance in Washington is surely designed to remind Republicans of the urgency of Ukraine’s struggle and how a defeat in Kyiv would drive nuclear-backed Moscow brutality to the doorstep of NATO and then would likely result in the US ground war with Russia.

He is an inspiring rhetorician and – as a former reality TV star turned unexpected president – ​​the epitome of how Putin’s war of choice turned ordinary Ukrainians into war heroes.

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