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Reports: Biden admin trying to send helicopters, let allies send missile launchers to Ukraine

A U.S. soldier demonstrates how to use the Javelin anti-tank missile system to Ukrainian military officials. (KAYLA CHRISTOPHER/U.S. ARMY)
January 20, 2022

President Joe Biden’s administration has granted permission to three baltic North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to begin sending U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal and CNN both reported Thursday, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

The Biden administration has also reportedly notified Congress of its intentions to transfer five Mi-17 transport helicopters to Ukraine. The Russian-made transport helicopters were reportedly purchased to give to the U.S.-backed Afghan government before its collapse, and are already in the Ukraine where they were being prepared.

The moves to transfer the military equipment to Ukraine come as Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders for weeks.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all three of which are NATO-allied nations, would reportedly transfer Javelin anti-tank missile launchers as well as anti-aircraft missile launchers like the Stinger to Ukraine.

Latvia and Lithuania would reportedly provide the anti-aircraft missiles, which could help Ukrainian forces fend off Russian aircraft. Russia’s helicopters and planes would likely prove crucial early on in a Russian invasion of Ukraine, attacking ground targets and rapidly moving troops and supplies to outmaneuver Ukrainian defenses.

The Javelin missiles would reportedly come from Estonia. The U.S. has provided such anti-tank missiles to Ukraine in the past and they could prove useful in fending off Russian armored units.

Ukraine already uses Mi-17 transport helicopters and the five additional helicopters could theoretically be integrated into their fleet with minimal additional training required. Various versions of the helicopter can carry between 24 and 37 troops. Some variants can also be equipped as gunships, carrying rocket pods and machine guns.

“The United States and its allies and partners are standing together to expedite security assistance to Ukraine,” a State Department spokesman told the Wall Street Journal, declining to provide details about the shipments from the Baltic states.

“European allies have what they need to move forward on additional security assistance from Ukraine in the coming days and weeks,” a State Department official told CNN. “We are in close touch with our Ukrainian partners and our NATO Allies on this, as well as utilizing all available security cooperation tools available to us including expediting authorized transfers of U.S.-origin equipment from other allies and partners via our Third Party Transfer process and Excess Defense Articles from [Department of Defense] inventories, among other mechanisms.”

Earlier this week, United Kingdom Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the U.K. had also begun sending “light anti-armor, defensive weapon systems” to Ukraine. Wallace said the U.K.’s shipments “are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia. They are to use in self-defense.”