Congress may authorize supply of surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine

Ukrainian scrapped S-125 missile systems return to service

Although the pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country do not have fighters, such a move will signal the Kremlin about the position of the Congress on the conflict in Ukraine.

Last year, after years of internal debate that began even before the arrival of his administration, President Donald Trump began supplying modern Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine..

Then some expressed fears that with this step the United States would turn Moscow against itself..

Now US lawmakers want to raise rates again by passing a law allowing the supply of surface-to-air missiles to Kiev.

These efforts took the form of an amendment to the Defense Department’s funding law. The amendment removes the current provision prohibiting the sale of such missiles, called man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS).

The amendment was initiated by two leading legislators of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs – Democrat Eliot Engel and Republican Michael McCall. It is expected to be adopted quickly, but this does not mean that arms shipments will begin immediately..

The final decision must be approved by many government departments, including the Department of Defense.

Moreover, the use of Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles is still limited. Russian-backed separatists do not have fighters, and if Russia sends its planes to Ukraine, it would undermine Moscow’s claims that it will not intervene in the conflict..

However, such a move will send a clear signal to the Kremlin about the position of the Congress on the war in Ukraine. According to former US Ambassador to Ukraine Stephen Pifer, this is the logical next step after the US decision to supply Javelin missiles to the Ukrainian armed forces..

“I don’t think this will create more problems than the emergence of Javelin rockets,” said Pifer, who is now a fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman-Spogley Institute for International Studies..

“We are not talking about the supply of F-35 fighters or M-1 tanks to Ukraine,” the expert added in an interview with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

The Pentagon has not yet responded to a request for comment on possible missile deliveries.

One American diplomat who worked on the Ukrainian issue, in an interview with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, did not attach much importance to the amendment, saying on condition of anonymity that it simply removes “an arbitrary restriction that does not apply to most countries.”.

Congress may authorize supply of surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine

The initiative is part of a broader Congress effort to increase military support for Ukraine. Two separate bills, which are pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate, provide for the provision of annual military assistance to Ukraine in the amount of up to $ 300 million – more than in previous years.

Since 2014, Ukraine has received more than $ 3 billion in assistance from the United States, but only part of this assistance was related to the security sector..

The House of Representatives bill for the first time calls for the supply of anti-ship missiles and coastal defense weapons to Ukraine – in response to the November incident when Russian warships seized three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors in the Kerch Strait near the Crimean Peninsula.

Pifer noted that there will also be no immediate combat use for MANPADS, since Russian military aircraft were not used in the conflict. However, both sides of the conflict use drones extensively..

When Washington agreed to supply Ukraine with Javelin missiles, Moscow reacted with indignation. However, after 210 missiles and 37 launchers arrived in the country in April 2018, there were few comments from Russian officials on this matter..

US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volcker said that Javelin complexes are stored in a safe place away from the front line.

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