The United States has made a “substantive” change in its aid to Ukraine, sending more offensive weapons to President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is seeking to capitalize on Russia’s apparent setbacks in recent months.
Two U.S. officials told CNN that the change in weaponry sent to the European country reflects what Ukraine sees as an opportunity to regain territory. The new batch of munitions and vehicles — courtesy of the U.S. and Germany — gives Ukraine “much more capability,” one official said.
The Biden administration hinted at a change in what kind of weapons would be provided to Ukraine when it announced on Friday that Zelensky’s forces will receive 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles along with long-range rocket systems. The administration’s announcement came less than one month after Zelensky visited the White House and begged Congress for more aid.
“We are positioning Ukraine to be able to move forward and retake territory,” Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper said last week following the announcement of the aid package to Ukraine.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a retired commander of the U.S. Army Europe and NATO Allied Land Command, told CNN how the new U.S. package gives Ukraine a more offensive set of weapons in its arsenal.
“What I would imagine the Ukrainians will do is take these 50 Bradleys and put most of them in one battalion or one armored brigade … and create an iron fist that would be used to penetrate Russian linear defenses,” Hodges said.
The U.S. officials emphasized that the Biden administration remains focused on providing the Ukrainians with weapons and aid that help Ukraine follow battle strategies it is developing on its own. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the weapons and vehicles included in the latest aid package will help the Ukrainians shift to warfare in the open farmlands of the Donbas region, the eastern section of Ukraine annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin last September, Bloomberg reported.
Ukraine will receive the offensive weapons as Republicans, many of whom want more oversight of aid to Ukraine, take control of the House of Representatives. House Republicans such as Rep. Chip Roy of Texas and Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina have long criticized the lack of accountability for how Ukraine uses U.S. aid. Newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has also said that Republicans will not stand for writing Ukraine a “blank check.”
State Department communications obtained by POLITICO last month showed that the U.S. government is struggling to keep track of the more than $50 billion in aid sent to Ukraine, even relying on Ukrainian forces and staffers to keep tabs on how the money is being used. According to the cable, the Biden administration also depends on Ukrainian staffers — many of whom aren’t even in the country — to coordinate with a senior embassy official and oversee U.S. aid.