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US to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine

By Sarah May
|
December 22, 2022

In tandem with a visit to Washington, D.C. by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Defense Department announced a decision to send a battery of Patriot missiles to the war-torn country as part of a broader weapons package worth roughly $1.85 billion, according to The Hill.

The outlet noted that Ukraine is set to receive one such air defense battery along with munitions, a system engineered to target things such as bombers, drones, missiles, and fighter jets that might be employed to attack civilian as well as military assets.

Patriot missiles to Ukraine

In announcing the move, the Pentagon explained in a statement, “Russia's unrelenting and brutal air attacks against critical infrastructure have only reinforced the need to provide Ukraine with sophisticated air defense capabilities.”

“At President Biden's direction, the United States has prioritized the provision of air defense systems to help Ukraine defend its people from Russian aggression,” the statement went on.

The larger weapons package being prepared for Ukraine will also include more ammunition used in High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 37 Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, several armored utility trucks, 2,700 grenade launchers, 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds, and much more.

Despite being one of Ukraine's largest benefactors since Russia's invasion back in February, the U.S. has, until now, declined to send the Patriot missile defense system due to concerns about stoking heightened hostilities.

However, according to The Hill, recent deliberations within the administration led to a change in tone, something that prompted Zelensky to thank “every American” for supporting the war effort, while declaring that money and material given to Ukraine is “not charity,” but rather an “investment” in democracy, as the Associated Press noted.

Coming back for more

In 2022, the Biden administration – facilitated by Congress – has sent approximately $50 billion in total aid to Ukraine, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, citing a study from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

Indeed, this week's decision to send the Patriot missile system to Ukraine marks yet another upward departure in America's willingness to provide extraordinary levels of assistance.

Even so, during a joint press conference with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, Zelensky hinted his belief that more help ought to be forthcoming as the conflict with Russia grinds on.

As the Daily Mail noted, well before any part of the Patriot system has had a chance to arrive on Ukrainian soil, Zelensky took the opportunity to rhetorically ask, “What is going to happen after the Patriots are installed?” Answering his own question, he continued, “After that, we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to get more Patriots.”

The assembled crowd joined in laughter, prompting the Ukrainian leader to shrug and say, “We are in a war,” to which Biden replied, “We're working on it.”

Not everyone amused

Though Zelensky's visit was greeted with standing ovations from legions of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, not everyone in Congress was as enthusiastic about Wednesday's events, as the New York Post reported.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) was among those who steered clear of Zelensky's remarks to legislators, declaring, “I'm in D.C., but I will not be attending the speech of the Ukrainian lobbyist,” noting that massive American aid to Ukraine “is not charity. Charity would be given freely.”

“The American taxpayers have been conscripted into making welfare payments to this foreign government,” Massie added, echoing sentiments that have been expressed by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Mike Lee (R-UT), who also skipped Zelensky's speech.

Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) did not join in the rousing applause and standing welcome given to Zelensky as made his way into the House chamber, something likely to have drawn the ire of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who had specifically requested all lawmakers to be present for – and presumably enthusiastic about – the proceedings.

To the certain irritation of the aforementioned politicians, Zelensky pulled off something of a coup by scoring the coveted Patriot missile system, however, it should be noted that the Biden administration has persisted in its unwillingness to send long-range artillery missiles known as ATACMS, a fact which remains something of a sore spot with the Ukrainian leader.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are continuing their debates over the prospect of sending another $45 billion in aid to his country as part of a broader spending bill that must be passed by Friday if a partial shutdown of the government is to be avoided.