The Biden administration is mulling a plan which would redirect helicopters and other military equipment, that was once bound for the now-defunct Afghan military, to Ukraine, in an effort to quickly bolster its defenses amid an ongoing buildup of Russian troops near the border, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Pentagon officials 'generally' support giving more arms to Ukraine, however the National Security Council has yet to approve the delivery. Meanwhile, the White House continues to seek a diplomatic solution to encourage Moscow to back off, according to US officials.
The military kit previously earmarked for the Afghan National Security Forces includes Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, U.S. officials said. The helicopters would provide more mobility for Ukrainian forces, which have a large front to defend and lost aircraft in clashes in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and pro-Moscow separatists rebelled in Ukraine’s east.
Ukrainian officials have also been lobbying the administration for air-defense systems, including Stinger surface-to-air missiles, that would help them defend their country against Russian aircraft, a Ukrainian official said. The country currently uses Soviet-era systems, which have been modernized but lag behind some of the high-tech equipment used by the Russian military. -WSJ
According to a NSC spokesman, "We continuously assess additional military assistance packages," adding that $2.5 billion in military aid has already been provided to Ukraine since 2014 - which includes $450 million this year.
The NSC may be cautious, however, as stepped up arms shipments may escalate tensions with Moscow, according to some members of Congress and government officials.
Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers traveled to Ukraine on a fact-finding mission, only to report back that Biden's threat of economic sanctions on Russia wasn't going to be enough to deter a potential Russian attack. Their solution? Sanctions and accelerated military support which would include air-defense systems and antiship missiles.
"I want to give the Ukrainians defensive weapons that will have a high cost in terms of Russian casualties," said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), one of the officials on the trip who insists that the US needs to now focus "on deterring a conflict from happening versus responding to a conflict if it does happen."
"The problem is more bureaucracy. It just seems like it’s taking a long time to just deliver the damn weapons. We’re just running out of time here. We need to speed things up," he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, has been making public demands - including that NATO back off its eastward expansion which would include granting membership to Ukraine.