US announces $200m military assistance package for Ukraine

US package is the first to be announced since Congress dropped new funding for Kyiv to avoid a government shutdown.

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced a new package of military aid for Ukraine [Olivier Matthys/Pool via AP]

The United States will provide Ukraine with a new $200m military assistance package, including air defence and rocket ammunition.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the package at the opening of a two-day meeting of Kyiv’s international supporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.

The package is the first since Congress dropped new funding for Kyiv from a bill to avoid a government shutdown earlier this month.

The decision to drop the funding amid resistance from Republicans raised questions about Washington’s continued commitment to helping Ukraine fight against Russian forces.

On Wednesday, Austin repeated assurances that the US will stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”.

Absent further action by Congress, US President Joe Biden’s administration still has authority to withdraw more than $5bn worth of equipment from military stocks.

However, the Department of Defense has only $1.6bn in remaining funding to replace donated weapons and equipment.

Austin and Air Force General Charles Q Brown are also expected to use the meeting to reassure allies, including Kyiv, that it can maintain support for Ukraine while backing Israel in its conflict with Hamas.

So far, the US has provided Ukraine with $44bn in military assistance since Russia’s invasion, including tanks, rockets and millions of rounds of ammunition.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pressed the US for more military assistance in its war against Russia [Olivier Matthys/Pool via Reuters]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also attended the meeting in Brussels to press allies for more weapons before winter.

“We are preparing, we are ready,” Zelenskyy said in advance of a meeting of defence ministers. “Now, we need some support from the leaders.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “preparing once again to use winter as a weapon of war” by targeting energy infrastructure in Ukraine.

“We need to prevent that. With more advanced and increased capabilities for air defence, we can make a big difference,” Stoltenberg said.

Ukraine has waged a counteroffensive to recapture territory in the south and east of the country since July, but has failed to make a breakthrough due to Russian fortifications and landmines.

During the two-day gathering in Brussels, officials are also expected to discuss other security-related issues, including recent damage to an undersea gas pipeline and telecommunication cable linking Finland and Estonia.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies