The US and Ukraine are in intensive discussions about a new round of security assistance tailored to combat a stepped-up Russian campaign in eastern and southern Ukraine, where the terrain is different than the war’s earlier main front, according to multiple US defense officials.
The package being put together may center around more drones and Javelin anti-tank weapons — which the US has previously provided to Ukraine. This is in part because Ukraine already has these kinds of weapons in its inventory and can use them quickly, one official said.
The US is also talking to partners and allies in Europe to see what additional long range air defense systems, tanks, armor, and artillery they might be able to provide Ukraine from their own inventories.
Those discussions are particularly urgent because the terrain in the south and eastern portions of Ukraine is different than the initial phase, which took place to some extent in wooded areas north of Kyiv where Ukraine’s forces succeeded with ambush tactics.
Now, along the new eastern and southern fronts, the Ukrainians need is for heavier weapons, such as armor and artillery, the officials said.
“It is much more open and lends itself to armor mechanized offensive operations on both sides,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel last week.
US systems are not in the Ukrainian inventory, so finding partners and allies willing to contribute is a key priority. Part of the negotiations include discussion of the US replacing the partners’ provisions with possibly more advanced systems.
Ukraine still wants to get fighter jets, the officials said, but the US remains opposed to facilitating any such transfer.
The Defense Department has said that Russia’s refocus to the Donbas region has not affected the ability to get security assistance from the US to Ukraine.
“Eight to 10 flights a day are coming into the region, not just from the United States but from other nations as well,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a briefing Monday.
“In some cases, stuff coming from the United States takes no more than four to six days from the time the president authorizes drawdown authority to it gets into the hands of the Ukrainians,” he said.
CNN’s Michael Conte contributed reporting to this post.