US to announce $2.3b arms package for Ukraine: Pentagon

Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali |

Ukraine Defence Minister Rustem Umerov and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin held talks in the US.
Ukraine Defence Minister Rustem Umerov and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin held talks in the US.

The United States will soon announce more than $US2.3 billion ($A3.5 billion) in new security assistance for Ukraine, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin says.

Austin also gave a nod to Ukraine’s aspirations to eventually join NATO, more than two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion. 

Referring to next week’s NATO summit in Washington, he said: “We will take steps to build a bridge to NATO membership for Ukraine.”

He did not elaborate.

Ukrainian officials have been urging their allies for months to supply more air defence systems to counter frequent missile and drone attacks from Russian forces.

Austin said the latest weapons package for Ukraine would include arms such as anti-tank weapons and air defence interceptors, and would allow accelerated procurement of NASAMS and Patriot air defence interceptors.

“I am proud that the United States will soon announce more than $US2.3 billion in new security assistance for Ukraine,” Austin said just before a meeting with Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov.

“This package, under presidential drawdown authority, will provide more air defence interceptors, anti-tank weapons and other critical munitions from the US inventories.”

The United States has provided Ukraine with more than $US50 billion worth of military aid since 2022, but there are concerns about the future of US support for Kyiv should Donald Trump win the November 5 presidential election.

Two key advisers to Trump have presented him with a plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, if he is elected. It involves telling Ukraine that it will get more US weapons only if it enters peace talks with Moscow.

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon
The US arms package will include anti-tank weapons for the Ukraine. (AP PHOTO)

The proposal would mark a big shift in the US position on the war and face opposition from European allies and within Trump’s own Republican Party.

During the meeting with Austin, Umerov said Ukraine was looking forward to becoming a member of NATO.

“Hopefully soon Ukraine will receive its invitation.”

Umerov, in comments posted later on the Telegram messaging app, expressed thanks for the new assistance.

Work is proceeding “so that Ukraine will receive more air defence systems as quickly as possible,” he said.

The NATO flag
NATO membership for Ukraine was discussed during the meeting. (EPA PHOTO)

He added that Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyn had described as vital that detailed steps be taken at the NATO summit, particularly to ensure funding from the alliance to boost Ukraine’s defence capability.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who lobbied unsuccessfully for a political invitation to join the alliance at its summit in Vilnius last summer, has said that this year’s summit should resolve the matter of inviting Kyiv to join.

While NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Washington have both said they do not expect the alliance’s 32 members at the July 9-11 summit to invite Ukraine to join while it remained at war with Russia.

Stoltenberg has said he hopes to show Kyiv that it is moving closer to membership.