The US is set to finalize a huge military aid package for Ukraine totaling approximately $2.5 billion worth of weaponry, including for the first time Stryker combat vehicles, two sources briefed on the next tranche of aid told CNN.
The package is not yet finalized, one of sources said, but it could come before the end of the week.
The new aid – one of the biggest packages to be announced since the war began last February – would also include more armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles, according to one of the people briefed. Combined with the Strykers, it marks a significant escalation in the armored vehicles the US has committed to Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, are also on the list, the person said. The US has already committed to sending Ukraine nearly 500 MRAPs.
When asked if the US was preparing to announce another Ukraine security package, State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN, “Two words: stay tuned.”
Stryker vehicles are armored vehicles capable of moving infantry across a battlefield. They are both lighter and faster than Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, which the Pentagon announced it is sending to Ukraine for the first time earlier this month. Together, the two vehicles provide Ukraine a mechanized capability that can bring the fight directly to the front lines, especially combined with promised tanks from the UK and other armored vehicles from France and Germany.
“What we’re trying to look at is the mix of armored and mechanized forces that make sense,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters Wednesday.
The announcement is not expected, however, to include tanks or the long-range missiles Ukraine has repeatedly asked for. The US is expected to send Ukraine more ammunition for its artillery systems and HIMARS rocket systems that have been consistent in recent aid packages.
Ukrainian officials have been fiercely lobbying Washington for longer-range missiles known as ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) that have a range of around 200 miles (about 300 kilometers). The Biden administration has resisted sending them out of fear of escalating the conflict with Russia.
“On the ATACMS issue, I think we’re kind of at the agree to disagree position on that,” Kahl said.
Kyiv has pleaded for modern tanks, a request the US is not yet willing to grant, even though the UK and other key allies are preparing to send tanks that could make a crucial difference in the war as Kyiv braces for a possible large-scale Russian counter-offensive.
The administration has also pushed back on sending M1 Abrams tanks because of logistical and maintenance complications. The UK, meanwhile, recently announced it would send a squadron of Challenger 2 main battlefield tanks amid Ukrainian hopes that Germany will allow its popular Leopard 2 tank to be offered to Ukraine – heralding a new phase in the international effort to arm Kyiv and…