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Defense & National Security — $3.75B weapons package for Ukraine unveiled

The Biden administration will send $3.75 billion in new military assistance to Ukraine and other countries related to Russia’s war that has lasted more than 10 months.

We’ll share what’s in it plus details on a trip two US senators took to Ukraine, the new US sanctions targeting Iran and a day of remembrance on the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol Building.

This is Defense & National Security, your guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forwarded this newsletter to you?

Biden announces nearly $4B in Ukraine military aid

The Biden administration on Friday announced $3.75 billion in new military assistance to Ukraine and other countries related to Russia’s more than 10-month war.

A first: The assistance package directs the Department of Defense to draw down from its stockpiles $2.85 billion in military equipment, and that is set to include Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

The lightly armored and tracked vehicles provide medium- and long-range firepower, with the capability of destroying other military vehicles, including tanks.

Ukrainian officials have pressed the US and its European partners to send tanks and armored vehicles to Kyiv. France and Germany have recently committed to send armored vehicles to Ukraine and the US has earlier provided funds for partner countries to send refurbished tanks to Kyiv.

Also included: The US will also be sending artillery systems, armored personnel carriers, surface-to-air missiles and ammunition to Ukraine as part of the $2.85 billion drawdown from the Pentagon.

  • The funds also include $225 million in Foreign Military Financing to go towards Ukraine building its “long-term capacity and support modernization,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
  • This will be used “to cover wartime requirements of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Blinken said, and may also be used to support the sustainment of equipment previously provided to Ukraine.

Backfilling: But another part of the nearly $4 billion drawdown includes $682 million in Foreign Military Financing to European partner countries and allies “to help incentivize and backfill donations of military equipment to Ukraine.”

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Two key Democratic senators with oversight of intelligence and the armed services met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Friday, shortly before the Biden administration announced a nearly $4 billion military aid package for the country.

Sens. Jack Reed (DR.I.) and Angus King (I-Maine), both members of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees, also met with senior Ukrainian officials and members of the US embassy.

The trip: Reed, who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, tweeted that he traveled with King to show solidarity with “brave Ukrainians fighting to defend their homeland from Russian invasion” and called the meeting with Zelensky “productive.”

  • The senators gave a brief press conference in central Kyiv, where King said part of the mission of the trip was to exercise “accountability” for US funding to Ukraine.
  • Reed described Zelensky, who recently addressed a joint meeting of Congress, as “leading quite adroitly, a worldwide coalition” and said he was returning to Washington also advocating for more assistance for Ukraine.

Keeping track: Politico reported last month that a September cable sent by US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink raised concerns over major barriers to keeping track of American military assistance and its functioning — but said the embassy was working to put in place different approaches and mechanisms to track assistance .

Still, King said he is returning to the US “enormously impressed by the level of accounting and accountability for the use of these materials and funds,” according to the transcript of his press conference provided by his office.

“So one of my jobs is to be sure that the resources that are being provided by the American people are being accounted for and are being expended for the purposes to which they’ve been dedicated,” he said. “I’m leaving convinced that that’s the case.”

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US sanctions Iranian drone, missile producers

The Biden administration on Friday issued new sanctions targeting Iranian drone and missile productionseeking to disrupt the flow of weapons Tehran is providing Moscow for its war in Ukraine.

“Iran has now become Russia’s top military backer,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “Iran must cease its support for Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine, and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt and delay these transfers and impose costs on actors engaged in this activity.”

Blacklisted: The US blacklisted seven individuals in leadership positions with the Qods Aviation Industries, an Iranian defense manufacturer responsible for the design and production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, Blinken continued.

The individuals sanctioned include the director of Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), the primary organization responsible for overseeing Iran’s ballistic missile programs, the statement read. The US also added AIO itself to its sanctions list.

Severing a weapons line: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement that Russia’s reliance on Iran signals how sanctions from a US-led coalition are severing its ability to replace weapons lost on the battlefield.

“The Kremlin’s reliance on suppliers of last resort like Iran shows their desperation…” Yellen said.

What the sanctions do: The sanctions block any assets held by the individuals in the US, as well as any entities in the US that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by any of the blocked persons.

The sanctions generally prohibit Americans or any person within the US from dealing with individuals, including transactions transiting through the US Further, any persons that engage in certain transactions with blacklisted individuals or entities risk being exposed to sanctions themselves.

Earlier: The new designations add to previous sanctions targeting Iran’s weapons industry, announced in September, November and December.

Russia in recent months began attacking Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed- and Mohajer-series UAVs, explosive-laden drones.

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House Dems, one GOP lawmaker mark Jan. 6 attacks

House Democrats — and one Republican — paused for a brief but emotional ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol.

Gathering on the House steps with the families of officers who lost their lives in connection with the riot, lawmakers honored the fallen officers as well as those injured in the lengthy battle with those who stormed the Capitol.

Honoring the fallen: Family members or representatives read the names of each officer who died in connection with the riot — Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, and Metropolitan Police Officers Jeffrey Smith, Gunther Hashida and Kyle DeFreytag.

The family of Billy Evans, a Capitol Police officer who was killed after a man rammed into Capitol barricades and drew a knife on officers, were also present, his name read aloud by his two young sons.

Meanwhile: The remembrance was held as the majority of the GOP gathered for a call to discuss a pending twelfth vote to determine who will serve as speaker of the House.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) appeared to be the only Republican in attendance for the Jan. 6 remembrance.

Read that story here


The Center for Strategic and International Studies will launch a report on “The First Battle of the Next War: Wargaming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan,” at 2 pm


That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you Monday!

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