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Biden Admin Moves Ukraine to Front of Line on Air Defense Missile Deliveries, Delays Deliveries Elsewhere

AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft/Released)
June 20, 2024

The Biden administration announced Thursday it would move Ukraine to the front of the line for foreign arms sales of air-defense missiles, pushing back deliveries for other foreign buyers in the process.

Speaking with reporters during a White House press call on Thursday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the administration had elected to prioritize deliveries of air-defense missiles, particularly as Russian forces have ramped up long-range strikes on Ukrainian territory. This reprioritization will come in addition to the Patriot, National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAM), and MIM-23 HAWK missiles it has already supplied to Ukraine.

“We’re going to reprioritize the deliveries of these exports so that those [air-defense] missiles rolling off the production line will now be provided to Ukraine,” Kirby said. “This will ensure that we’ll be able to provide Ukraine with the missiles they need to maintain their stockpiles at a key moment in the war.”

The announcement comes as Russian forces have increasingly fired munitions from stand-off distances, including from the relative safety of their own borders, that have then flown into Ukrainian territory. Many of these strikes have targeted power plants and other critical infrastructure components.

“The broader message here to Russia is clear. If you think you’re gonna be able to outlast Ukraine and if you think you’re gonna be able to outlast those of us who are supporting Ukraine, you’re just flat-out wrong,” Kirby insisted. “We’re going to make sure that we give Ukraine the critical air defense capabilities they need now and into the future.”

The Biden administration has already given Ukraine some blessing to begin using U.S.-donated weapons to intercept Russian long-range munitions and hit other key targets on the Russian side of the Ukraine-Russia border.

Kirby said U.S. support for Israeli and Taiwanese air defense systems would not be impacted by this reprioritization.

He did not say how many other countries waiting in line for deliveries of air defense systems will be impacted by this reprioritization, but said the plan is to focus on supplying these systems to Ukraine for the remainder of 2024 and all of 2025.

“So about 16 months will be the focus of the timeframe to fill out Ukraine’s inventory, and then after that the countries that have been asked to delay will start to get their deliveries,” Kirby said.

While the Biden administration and Ukraine’s other backers have been flowing tens of billions in military aid their way for more than two years, Russia has appeared to augment its own domestic weapons production with some support from partners like Iran and North Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited North Korea this week, signing a new bilateral security partnership.

Kirby insisted that Russia is feeling increasingly isolated as its military campaign in Ukraine winds on in its third year, and that Putin’s visit to North Korea only further proved that sense of Russian isolation.

“They don’t have a lot of friends in the world. And they’re trying to do everything they can to pull on the strings of the friends that they do have,” the White House official said.

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.