Biden Keeps Reversing Course On Giving Weapons To Ukraine

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Joe Biden, the president of the United States, has changed his mind at least seven times about what weapons to approve for Ukraine. This includes some that were considered by earlier administrations to be escalatory.

The Washington Post reports that the Biden administration approved over $42 billion worth of weapons for Ukraine between August 2021 and now, but it has refused to send American combat troops. The administration believes this would amount to a third-world war. The Washington Post reports that Biden administration officials attribute the pattern of deferring previous deployments to changing battlefield conditions, Kyiv’s needs and their own expectations. However, officials have also consistently warned against sending offensive capabilities out of fear of inciting Russian President Vladimir Putin into an even wider war.

According to Defense News, Colin Kahl, Undersecretary for Policy at the Department of Defense, said in June that the Administration had changed its mind about HIMARS for Ukraine. “But, at the same time Russia does not have a veto on what we send the Ukrainians.” The Russians started this war, not the Ukrainians.

FIM-92 Stinger

The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2021 the U.S. increased its weapons supply to Ukraine when Russian forces began to gather near the border. However, it was only days after the invasion of Ukraine that the Biden Administration approved Stinger antiaircraft missiles for the first. The U.S. approved in January two European partners for the transfer of American-made Stingers from Ukraine.

Business Insider reports that Stinger missiles can be fired from the shoulder and have infrared sensors to guide them toward their target. They are also capable of destroying Russian gunship helicopters.

M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems

Politico reported that after months of internal turmoil, the administration finally relented, and on June 1 announced the first delivery of HIMARS, the now-infamous light wheeled multi rocket launchers, but not the ones equipped with rockets for longer ranges. According to Defense New, the Undersecretary for Policy Colin Kahl stated that Washington required Kyiv as a condition for providing HIMARS that it only be used for defensive operations and not fire into Russian territory.

MIM-104 Patriot

Ukraine’s next request was for the Patriot surface to air missile defense system. Kyiv claimed that it could protect Ukraine from Russian missiles fired at civilian and military targets.

The administration claimed that obtaining and staffing Patriots would put a strain on Ukraine’s military, both in terms of training, munitions and global demand for rare and expensive systems, and the types missiles they fire. The Department of Defense has announced that it will provide one Patriot Battery to Ukraine in December, despite these concerns.

M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks

In late January, after Kyiv demanded advanced heavy western tanks, the U.S. administration offered 31 M1 Abrams main combat tanks made in the United States to Ukraine. This decision was apparently taken against the Pentagon’s initial recommendation.

In response to pressure from NATO, the administration approved 31 Abrams tanks, which is equal to a Ukrainian tank brigade. This was done in order for Ukraine’s Leopard 2s and the German-made Leopard 2s to be unlocked.

Ground-Launched small diameter bombs

The HIMARS system was initially equipped with rockets that had a range of 53 miles. In February, the administration delivered a supply ground-launched “smart-bombs” up to 94 mile.

Dual-Purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICMS).

The Friday security package included a number of cluster munitions (155 mm DPICMS), which are projectiles with a high failure rate that explode in mid-air to disperse smaller munitions across a large area. Many countries have prohibited the stockpiling of or use of these munitions due to their high failure rate and tendency for them to explode when they are disturbed by civilians.

In December, a White House official told Politico that the White House wasn’t completely against sending DPICMS into Ukraine, but the idea was not being actively considered.

According to Politico, John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said that he was concerned about the use these types of munitions.

As the counteroffensive is taking longer than expected and could consume more 155mm round than the U.S. or its partners can provide, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stated Friday that “we need to build a link from where we are now to when we will have enough monthly production unitary rounds…to give Ukraine what it requires.”

He added that the administration had “deferred” its decision for a period of time.

Biden said to CNN, “It was very difficult for me to make that decision.”

Ukraine has renewed its public calls for F-16 multirole combat aircraft after the announcement of the tank. Politico reported that Biden said in January that F-16s were not an option for Ukraine.

The administration then did not exclude the possibility that Ukraine could receive the fourth-generation aircraft in February, but stated they were “off the table” for now.

Politico reported that the administration finally said in May it would support the procurement of F-16s and the training of Ukrainian forces on the systems. Officials told Politico that the question of what happened between January and may was a matter of determining if Ukraine had the capability it needed in the short term and the likelihood of an escalation.

According to media reports, Denmark and the Netherlands plan to train Ukrainian soldiers on the fighters, and other European nations may also do the same. However, no delivery has been announced.

The WSJ reported that the U.S. will next consider ATACMS, as Ukraine’s urgent requirement for firepower is beginning to sway the White House’s most opposing members.

Politico, citing sources with knowledge of the discussion, reported that the Biden administration had told Ukraine earlier in 2023 it did not have enough spare ATACMS for Ukraine to send without compromising U.S. preparedness for future battles.

Previously, the administration had denied Ukraine’s request to acquire ATACMS, claiming that the HIMARS rockets, which are capable of reaching targets up to 190 mile from the launch point, would enable Ukraine to attack Russian territory, and thus violate President Vladimir Putin’s “red lines”.

According to Politico, Biden stated that if we gave Ukraine material that was fundamentally different from what is currently going on, it could break up NATO, the European Union, and the rest the world.