In Afghanistan, the Biden Administration may provide Ukraine military equipment The Biden administration is contemplating rerouting helicopters and other military equipment from Afghanistan to Ukraine to assist swiftly boost its defences amid a Russian army buildup near its border, sources said.
Ukraine is seeking the equipment and has discussed it with Pentagon officials who support delivering more armaments to Ukraine. In the meanwhile, the administration is seeking a diplomatic approach to urge Moscow to ease off on its military pressure campaign, according to US sources.
The Afghan National Security Forces previously received Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, according to US authorities. The helicopters would help Ukrainian forces defend a vast front after losing aircraft in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea and pro-Russian rebels rebelled in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities have also lobbied the administration for air defence equipment, notably Stinger surface-to-air missiles, a Ukrainian official said. The country now employs Soviet-era systems that have been updated but still trail behind high-tech Russian military weaponry.
A National Security Council official declined to reveal additional weaponry under consideration, pointing to $2.5 billion in military aid supplied to Ukraine since 2014, including $450 million this year.
The Biden administration is contemplating how to pursue diplomacy with Moscow while still strengthening Ukraine’s military capabilities.
For years, the US has tried to provide Ukraine with so-called lethal aid, like as anti-tank Javelin missiles, without offending Moscow.
Others claimed the National Security Council is leery of increasing armament supplies for fear of worsening tensions with Moscow and jeopardising efforts to start discussions with Moscow.
After a recent fact-finding mission to Ukraine, a bipartisan group of legislators warned President Biden’s threat of economic penalties isn’t enough to dissuade a prospective Russian strike. They demanded pre-attack sanctions and faster military help, including air defence systems and anti-ship missiles for Ukraine’s defence.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said the US should now focus on preventing conflicts rather than responding to them.
“I want to offer the Ukrainians defensive weapons,” Mr. Moulton added. “The issue is bureaucracy. It simply feels like it takes forever to get the stupid weapons. We’re nearly out of time. We need to go faster.”
While US officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t decided whether to invade, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued recommendations on Friday demanding for guarantees that the NATO military alliance won’t expand eastward, including by admitting Ukraine. Ukraine’s westward drift worries Moscow. While Ukraine’s NATO membership is unlikely in the near future, the US and allies have stated that Russia cannot decide who may join.
Mr. Biden will decide the next actions, according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Sullivan said meaningful progress at the negotiating table requires de-escalation rather than escalation. “We should pursue a mix of deterrence and diplomacy to see if we can achieve the de-escalation we all seek.”
A Pentagon team visited Ukraine late last month to study its air defence capabilities and needs, sources said. But the Ukrainian military’s flaws are widely acknowledged.
“They have a good army, but they can’t protect their air or sea space,” said Philip Breedlove, a former Air Force general who led NATO when Russia invaded Crimea and militarily engaged in eastern Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian and US authorities, the Ukrainian military has shown interest in acquiring Afghan military helicopters and ammunition.
One option, according to US sources, is to transfer five Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters that were used by the Afghan Air Force but were in Eastern Europe for maintenance. As a former Soviet client state, Afghanistan’s military was used to flying Russian helicopters, therefore the US acquired and maintained a few before switching to US-made Black Hawks.
In addition, the Afghan Air Force has requested a dozen Black Hawk helicopters from the United States. DoD officials refused to comment on a potential transfer of Afghan equipment to Ukraine.
“We continue to work closely with Ukraine to assess its troops’ needs,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth.
Moreover, if necessary, US and NATO ammunition and weapons depots in Romania and Bulgaria might be made available to the Ukrainian military.
“It’s difficult to identify military equipment that isn’t in use or deployed elsewhere,” a senior administration official said. The Pentagon is “exploring all alternatives to provide as much defence capabilities to Ukraine as soon as possible.”
The Russian military buildup is significantly greater than in 2014 and 2015, and an involvement might encompass substantial air and missile attacks, according to former and present officials. Thus, increasing military help for Ukraine may only scare Moscow without changing the military balance. The increased backing, however, would increase the danger of Russian losses in a fight and hence prevent the Kremlin from invading.
President Biden has stated that the US would not send troops to Ukraine, but will instead use economic penalties, future military support for Kiev, and increased American troop presence in NATO members in Eastern Europe to deter a military incursion.
Officials in Washington said the Biden administration is also considering a second Ukrainian request for Stingers and other air defence weapons.
“The challenge is what can you deliver in the next several months that can be used immediately without substantial training or overhead,” said Ben Hodges, a retired lieutenant general who oversaw US Army operations in Europe from 2014 to 2018.
Currently, the Florida National Guard is training Ukrainian troops. The Pentagon has not revealed the number of US special operations soldiers engaged in the training.