Ukraine update: President Biden announces new $3B aid package on Ukrainian Independence Day

Ukraine update: President Biden announces new $3B aid package on Ukrainian Independence Day

Aug. 24 is Ukrainian Independence Day. It also marks six months since Russian dictator Vladimir Putin began an illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. And now it marks the biggest U.S. military aid package since the war began.

President Joe Biden has made note of this occasion both by congratulating the Ukrainian people on their continued independence and by announcing a package of military aid designed to see that Ukraine stays a free and independent nation. In a statement, Biden expressed admiration for how Ukraine “stood resolute and strong” in the face of the Russian invasion, and emphasized again that the United States is committed to supporting Ukraine in this struggle.

Biden announced that the new package of military assistance will include “approximately $2.98 billion of weapons and equipment.” Including in the package will be “air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term.” It’s unclear if the package contains any new classes of military systems that were not included in previous packages (i.e., don’t expect a wing of F-32s or a quiver of  ballistic missiles), but it is likely to include more ammunition for HIMARS systems that have proven to be singularly effective, as well as more of the drones that are becoming vital in resisting this invasion.

This package uses funds allocated by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which authorized Biden to procure new systems for Ukraine. In addition, the president has used his authority to draw down existing U.S. reserves of weapons, systems, and ammunition in storage, sending hundreds of vehicles, anti-tank weapons, and large quantities of ammunition to Ukraine. With this latest package, the total value of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine is estimated to exceed $11 billion. With this package, much of the funding in the USAI appears to be depleted, although Biden has also announced a renewal of the World War II-era “Lend Lease” program, which provides another route for getting Ukraine the vehicles and systems it needs. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the total combination of funding and drawdowns available to Biden for use in Ukraine exceeds $23 billion.

“I know this independence day is bittersweet for many Ukrainians as thousands have been killed or wounded, millions have been displaced from their homes, and so many others have fallen victim to Russian atrocities and attacks,“ said Biden. “But six months of relentless attacks have only strengthened Ukrainians’ pride in themselves, in their country, and in their thirty-one years of independence. Today and every day, we stand with the Ukrainian people to proclaim that the darkness that drives autocracy is no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere.”

This package follows swiftly on the heels of a $775 million package that was sent last week, and which contained ammunition for HIMARS rocket systems and M777 howitzers, along with a variety of defensive systems and anti-armor weapons.

When a more detailed list of systems to be included in this package is available, expect an update.

The arrival of HIMARS may have halted Russian advances

At the end of June, the Ukrainian military welcomed the arrival of the first U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) after completing a significant logistical challenge outlined by kos. Almost immediately, every strike against a Russian target began to be credited to the rocket system, even though only a handful of systems were in the country. It’s certain that HIMARS was getting credit for successful attacks by other means—a trend that remains—but in days, Saint HIMARS began to displace Saint Javelin as the patron of the Ukrainian battlefield.

HIMARS isn’t responsible for every “HIMARS O’Clock!” explosion celebrated on the battlefield or posted to social media, but its appearance in Ukraine does seem to have played a major role, as in HIMARS seems to have put the brakes on Russian advances.

Following Russia’s capture of Lysychansk at the beginning of July, there was a burst of activity in the days that immediately followed, with Ukrainian forces pulling back to the Siversk-Bakhmut line and Russia occupying a number of towns and villages. And then … well, not quite nothing, but very close to it. In almost two months of fighting, “incremental gains” barely seems adequate to describe how little new territory Russia has taken.

And even as Russia has taken all or part of villages east of the Ukrainian line, it’s been losing territory to the west, south of Izyum. Bohorodychne, which was the target of Russian attempts for weeks, is now once again under Ukrainian control. So is the whole line from Dibrovne to Dolyna. 

Russia has made small gains here and there, including capturing small villages around Bakhmut over the last three weeks. However, it’s safe to say the last month has seen almost no success for Russia. There have been hundreds of failed attacks, often more than a dozen in a day. 

The slowdown of Russian advances is so obvious that even Russia has had to address it. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed on Tuesday that Russia’s failure to progress was a “conscious decision” made because Russia is concerned about “minimizing civilian casualties.” Everything, says Shoigu, is going according to plan.

Russia’s target is Slovyansk and Kramatorsk … which are still little closer than they were in June.

A reminder: The plan is to take Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, and the surrounding area, allowing Russia to make a claim on the whole of the Donbas. But Russia’s progress toward that goal since the days just after Lysychansk fell is miniscule.

Here’s the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s evaluation of the current situation in Ukraine: “The Donbas offensive is making minimal progress and Russia anticipates a major Ukrainian counterattack. Operationally, Russia is suffering from shortages of munitions, vehicles, and personnel. Morale is poor …”

U.K. Ministry of Defense update on Ukraine.

Here’s the latest from Ukraine’s own general staff, covering how Russia attempted to advance on three fronts and failed in all cases. That failure has become such a regular feature that updating maps of control is now more a matter of correcting mistaken intelligence than it is of cataloging changes.

The reasons that Russia has run out of steam are many, but the biggest suspect for this change of pace is the same as the suspect in every explosion in Ukraine at this point: HIMARS. 

In part, that’s because HIMARS clearly has been utilized for one particular purpose: taking out high-value targets well beyond the range of standard artillery. That’s included those shots to the bridges at Kharkiv and Nova Kakhovka that changed the whole tone of events in Kherson. And it’s included one big and scenic boom after another at sites in locations that Russia felt were safely under their control. 

This is from an explosion on Wednesday at Shakhtarsk in Donetsk oblast. It’s due east of Pisky, which has been the scene of hard fighting over the last two weeks, except Shakhtarsk is about 50 kilometers behind the lines. Reports are that this may have been both an ammunition depot and a command center. Naturally, the explosion is being credited to HIMARS. 

Shakhtars’k. pic.twitter.com/5oeAFbTWHa

— ТРУХА⚡️English (@TpyxaNews) August 24, 2022

Here’s a whole series of strikes at Nova Kakhovka, also attributed to HIMARS.

A series of strikes in Nova Kakhovka. Judging by the video, I assume that the strikes were made in the direction of ​​​​the lock near the dam.#Ukraine #Kherson pic.twitter.com/NwnRKz8QfI

— Special Kherson Cat 🐈🇺🇦 (@bayraktar_1love) August 24, 2022

Maybe something else will come along to displace HIMARS in the pantheon. Like … whatever it is that’s making those strikes way down in Crimea. And at the moment the relatively small number of HIMARS systems don’t give Ukraine what it needs to move from defense to offense.

But HIMARS seems to have put the brakes on the Russian military. And that’s not bad.


Wednesday, Aug 24, 2022 · 7:12:30 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

As expected, Russia is celebrating Ukraine’s Independence Day by slaughtering Ukrainian civilians. 

(Reuters) – At least 15 people died and 50 more were wounded on Wednesday when Russian forces launched a rocket attack on a Ukrainian railway station, Ukraine’s Zelenskiy said. He said the rockets had hit a train in the town of Chaplyne, some 145 km (90 miles) west of Donetsk

— Phil Stewart (@phildstewart) August 24, 2022

Wednesday, Aug 24, 2022 · 2:13:10 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The U.S. is not alone in celebrating this holiday. 

Boris Johnson in Kyiv today, lays out what Downing St says is “next major package of new support, including unmanned surveillance and anti-tank loitering munitions … a step up in the Ukrainian’s current capability … It includes 850 hand launched Black Hornet micro-drones”

— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) August 24, 2022

Click here to donate to help those escaping Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

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