Air defense capabilities remain the absolute priority as Ukraine seeks to stop the Russians from further damaging the civilian infrastructure in the nation, a senior defense official said today.
Russia has been unsuccessful militarily in its unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine and has increasingly turned to targeting civilian infrastructure — particularly Ukraine's energy grid.
This week's high temperature in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, is forecast to be 31 degrees Fahrenheit with lows in the teens. The Russian attacks have cut power to millions of Ukrainian civilians and affected water, transportation and much more. "These [airstrikes] are horrific attacks to punish the Ukrainian people," the official said. "As winter approaches, they serve no legitimate military purpose."
Additionally, the Russian attacks pose a danger to Ukrainian nuclear energy facilities. "The attacks also show Russia's willingness to increase the risk of a nuclear safety incident, which could have harmful consequences not only in Ukraine, but across the wider region as well," the official said. "Russia has shown no sign of relenting its attacks on Ukraine civilian infrastructure."
The official called out Iran for supplying Russia with an alternative source of weapons as Russia's own supplies diminish. DOD officials said that Iran has supplied drones to Russia that are being used to attack Ukrainian civilian targets.
As Ukraine's need for air defense grows, United States, allies and partners are sending capabilities to the country and helping train Ukrainian forces on how to use these defense systems. The United States has sent thousands of Stinger air defense systems to Ukraine and has also sent National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems to Ukraine. Two NASAMS are in operation in Ukraine, which have been extremely successful, U.S. and Ukrainian officials have said. More will be delivered to Ukraine as they are built.
The United States has also sent Avenger air defense systems to Kyiv. These systems can be used against a variety of targets, including drones.
"Our allies and partners have stepped up in this area, too," the official said. Spain, Germany, Sweden and Poland have sent air defense capabilities to Ukraine. "A number of allies and partners have committed Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air … missiles for the NASAMS air defense system that the U.S. has provided," the official said. The newest U.S. package of aid includes 150 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sites to help shoot down unmanned aerial systems.
Winter is coming, and the United States and partners have sent cold weather gear to Ukraine in addition to millions of small arms rounds, artillery and replacement parts for various weapons systems. The U.S. is also sending high-speed anti-radiation missiles, 150 Humvees and more than 100 light tactical vehicles.
To date, the United States has committed more than $19 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia's invasion on February 24. "We will continue to consult closely with Ukraine and coordinate with our allies and partners to provide Ukraine with the capabilities it needs to defend itself against Russian aggression," the official said.