The White House is preparing to announce a new military aid package for Ukraine as early as this week, with equipment that appears specifically aimed at helping Ukrainian forces fight Russia in the eastern Donbas region, according to three senior administration officials.
Two U.S. officials said the aid package could be worth $750 million. The package is likely to include new capabilities, such as unmanned surface vehicles — sometimes called sea drones or drone ships — and Mi-17 helicopters, according to a U.S. official and a senior defense official.
The package is still being finalized, and some equipment could be included in a later package of weaponry, a U.S. official said.
A former U.S. official described the aid shipment as “a package that’s built around the idea of larger-scale combat” and said sending short-range anti-ship missiles is under serious consideration.
The aid package would come as the war shifts to a new phase, with Russia’s brutal massacres of civilians, appointment of a new general to oversee the conflict and intensified focus on the Donbas.
“We want Russia to lose,” a senior administration official said.
The dollar amount of the package was first reported by Reuters.
The U.S. is also sharing more and better intelligence with the Ukrainians, the senior defense official and an administration official said. Last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued new guidance to the intelligence community about what it can provide with respect to the Donbas. The protocols for providing intelligence needed to be updated for the re-prioritized fight in the Donbas, the senior defense official said, explaining that “the guidance was loosened up a bit.”
The White House National Security Council declined to comment on the possible aid package. A spokesperson said the U.S. government is working around the clock to provide Ukraine with additional capabilities it has requested and needs to defend itself.
The senior defense official also said the fight in the Donbas would be different from other battles in Ukraine and that it could advantage Russia in some ways.
The terrain is different — for instance, it is not as forested as other areas where there has been fighting — there are not as many large population centers, and the region is more rural than the areas around Kyiv, the official said.
“So the knife fight tactics used around Kyiv might not work in the Donbas area,” the official said.
The Russians have also been operating in the Donbas for eight years, so they know the area well and are likely to be much more agile, the official said. The location also means Russia will have shorter internal lines of communication and logistically will be able to more easily resupply than in other parts of Ukraine. Russia has a history of brutal tactics in the Donbas, and the U.S. believes that is likely to increase.
Administration officials warn that despite Russia’s retreat from outside Kyiv and the resistance put up by the Ukrainian military, the war is about to enter an even deadlier and lengthier phase. The increased risk to civilians has prompted more urgency to arm Ukraine with new and different military equipment.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, had a two-hour phone call with Zelenskyy’s top aide and the commander of the Ukrainian forces, in which they “went through every weapons system that Ukraine is seeking, in priority order, and we have developed plans to deliver those as rapidly as possible.”
Sullivan said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that the administration is “going to get Ukraine the weapons it needs to beat back the Russians, to stop them from taking more cities and towns where they commit these crimes.”
The U.S. has conveyed to Ukraine a willingness to provide much of the military aid that has been requested, although not planes and tanks, officials said. Last week the Biden administration announced it would provide another $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles, which a senior defense official said is to help Ukraine prepare for the coming fight in the Donbas. And while the U.S. has drawn the line at directly providing Ukraine with planes and tanks, officials have said other NATO countries could do so. At least one other ally, the Czech Republic, has started sending T-72 tanks to Ukraine.