The US is sending Ukraine some Soviet-made air defense equipment that Washington took charge of decades ago through a secret program, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
The systems, to include the SA-8 short-range surface-to-air missile system, were obtained by the US for the purposes of examining Russian military technology and helping train American troops, US officials told the outlet.
The weapons are useful to Ukrainian forces, as their military already knows how to use Soviet systems.
Both the National Security Council and the Pentagon declined to comment on what specific weapons the US has sent to Ukraine to help the country beat back a violent Russian invasion that began Feb. 24.
“Operational security matters to the Ukrainians, right now,” press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyTime to reconstitute pressure on Pyongyang Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — US worried China may help Russia Pentagon chief to travel to Brussels, Slovakia, Bulgaria this week MORE told reporters Monday.
“They’re fighting for their country, and the Pentagon is not going to be publicly detailing the tools with which they are doing that,” he added.
The Biden administration has approved more than $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine in the past month, including an $800 million package announced last week.
But the US government has been hesitant to detail exactly what is being sent in so as not to tip off or draw the ire of Moscow. The Kremlin has publicly stated that any Western country that provides certain weapons to Ukraine, including aircraft and missile defense systems, could be seen as entering the fight.
The US has a small number of Soviet missile defense systems it acquired in the past 30 years as part of a secret, $100 million project that first gained notice in 1994, a former official involved in the mission told the Journal.
Among the weapons the US received—some of which have been kept at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. — is the SA-8, which can be easily moved with ground forces and provide cover from aircraft and helicopters.
Also in the US stockpile is the S-300 long-range air defense system. The system is meant to protect larger areas and is already owned and operated by the Ukrainians. That weapon, however, will not be sent to Ukraine, according to one official.
The administration is authorized to transfer such equipment under the new annual government spending bill President BidenJoe BidenBiden to visit Poland during Europe trip Former DC judge, Penn law professor to introduce Ketanji Brown Jackson at hearing US concludes violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya was genocide: report MORE signed into law last week. The legislation approves a $13.6 billion aid package for Ukraine, of which about $3.5 billion will go to the Pentagon to backfill equipment being sent from the US to Ukraine.
Also under the law, the US can transfer lethal aid to NATO allies that is already overseas or in existing stockpiles.
The US has already sought to have Slovakia provide its S-300 to Ukraine, but the NATO ally wants a guarantee it will get a “proper replacement” and soon. There has yet to be an agreement between the two countries.
Biden will now travel to Brussels this week for a NATO summit to discuss ways to help Ukraine, according to the White House.
“We are continuing to work with our allies and key partners to surge new assistance, including Soviet-or Russian-origin antiaircraft systems and the necessary ammunition to employ them, every day to Ukraine,” a US official told the Journal.