U.S. to redirect foreign sales of air defense missiles toward Ukraine

By Tony Bertuca / June 20, 2024 at 1:00 PM

The United States intends to pause a host of foreign military sales for air defense munitions over the next 16 months and redirect them toward Ukraine as the latter continues to be pounded by Russian attacks.

“The United States government has made the difficult but necessary decision to reprioritize near term planned deliveries of foreign military sales to other countries of particularly Patriot and [National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System] missiles to go to Ukraine instead,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said today during a press gaggle.

Kiby stressed that the FMS pauses would not impact shipment to Taiwan or Israel, according to an unofficial transcript of the gaggle provided by the White House.

“We have continued to dig deep and provide Ukraine with a variety of air defense systems and interceptor missiles from our own stockpiles,” Kirby said. “Many of our allies and partners have stepped up in historic ways as well. But obviously more is needed. And it's needed now.”

Reprioritizing deliveries to Ukraine, Kirby said, will occur over the next 16 months and will "ensure that we'll be able to provide Ukraine with the missiles they need to maintain their stockpiles at a key moment in the war and as we get again towards the end of summer and into the fall.”

An administration official told Inside Defense that the exact cost is still being determined, though it is anticipated to be more than $1 billion that will be drawn from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative fund authorized by Congress in the most recent supplemental spending package.

Kirby said any U.S. ally impacted by the paused sales would still receive the missiles they have ordered.

“It's just that the delivery timelines will now take a little longer,” he said. “If any of our other partners were ever in a situation similar to Ukraine's, we would go to extraordinary lengths to support their security as well. This decision demonstrates our commitment to supporting our partners when they're in existential danger.”

Kirby declined to name specific countries that will be impacted but said it is “a range.”

The move, Kirby said, is also intended to send a “broader message” to Russia.

“If you think you're going to be able to outlast Ukraine, and if you think you're going be able to outlast those of us who are supporting Ukraine, you're just flat out wrong,” he said. “We're going to make sure that we give Ukraine the critical air defense capabilities they need now and into the future.”

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, said during a press conference that the Defense Department would work closely with contractors on the “resequencing of deliveries.”

“We're working closely with industry on the appropriate contracting actions from this resequencing to ensure that we're able to continue to support our security assistance requirements,” he said. “We're going to make sure that not only are we supporting Ukraine but that we're continuing to keep on track with those FMS deliveries as quickly as possible.”

Ryder said Ukraine urgently needs the air defense munitions to fend off continued attacks against key infrastructure, calling it an “existential threat.”

“In this particular case in terms of why now, what we’re seeing is Russia once again trying to destroy Ukraine’s energy system and infrastructure ahead of winter,” he said. “Practically what that means is it will increase their inventories more quickly to enable them to continue to defend that critical infrastructure and the civilian population as we go into the winter.”