Biden promises Ukraine ‘advanced air defense systems’ after Russian missile strikes

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President Joe Biden spoke Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after a barrage of Russian missiles targeted cities across Ukraine, condemning the attacks and promising continued US security assistance “including advanced air defense systems.”

During the call, a White House statement said Biden “expressed his condemnation of Russian missile attacks throughout Ukraine, including Kyiv, and offered his condolences to the families of those killed and injured in these senseless attacks.” President Biden vowed to continue providing Ukraine with the support it needs to defend itself, including advanced air defense systems.”

The White House has not specified which air defense systems Biden has discussed with Zelenskyy, but the United States has previously committed to providing Ukraine with National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems. NASAMS would be able to attack Russian cruise missiles.

Biden, the statement said, “also underscored his continued commitment with allies and partners to continue to impose costs on Russia, hold Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and provide security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.”

When asked if the attacks of the past 24 hours would change the calculus of what the US would offer Ukraine, a senior administration official said they had no announcements to make on that front but that the US will continue to help the to help Ukraine in the short term. and long-range air defense systems, as has been the case in the past.

And a second senior administration official summed up US air defense assistance to Ukraine as follows: “We have transferred more than 1,400 Stinger air defense systems, as well as air surveillance and multipurpose radars to Ukraine. We’ve enabled our allies to deploy their own air defense systems to Ukraine — including Slovakia’s deployment of a critical S-300 system in April. And in August, President Biden announced a new aid package for Ukraine that included orders for 8 new NASAMS – National Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems. We will continue to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself.”

According to a Defense Department briefing in late September, the US had yet to deliver NASAMS to Ukraine. At the time, Brig. Gen. Gen. Patrick Ryder said two systems were expected to be delivered in the next two months, with the remaining six at an unspecified date.

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken also spoke with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday to reiterate US support following the deadly attacks. Biden is expected to attend an emergency video conference call with G7 leaders on Tuesday, where Zelensky is expected to address the group.

Russia fired a total of 84 cruise missiles against targets across Ukraine on Monday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a Facebook post.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strikes were in response to what he described as “acts of terrorism” by Kyiv. In particular, he referred to Saturday’s explosion on the Kerch Bridge, which connects Russia and Crimea – which he attributed to Ukraine’s “special services” – and a list of other alleged “crimes”.

Kuleba said such claims were “nonsense,” writing in a tweet: “Desperated by defeats on the battlefield, Putin is trying to use rocket terror to change the pace of the war in his favor.” And Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Service claimed on Monday in a statement that Moscow has been planning a “massive” missile attack on Ukraine since early last week.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, also said recently that he thinks Moscow should aim for the “complete dismantling” of Zelenskyy’s “regime”.

In a post on Telegram, Medvedev – who was Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012 – said: “The Ukrainian state in its current form… will pose a constant, direct and clear threat to Russia. Therefore, in my opinion, the goal of our future actions, in addition to protecting our people and the borders of the country, should be the complete dismantling of the political regime of Ukraine.”

John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Monday that additional support packages for Ukraine are likely to be announced “in the very near future.”

“It’s clear he’s feeling the pressures, both at home and abroad, and how he’s reacting to that is anyone’s guess,” Kirby told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Erin Burnett OutFront.

Kirby added, “He understands well that he’s not doing well on the battlefield.”

Asked if he thinks such attacks make Putin more likely to resort to nuclear weapons, Kirby said the US hadn’t seen anything new.

“We continue to monitor its nuclear capabilities, Kate, as best we can. And what I can tell you today is that we simply see no evidence that Mr Putin has made a decision to use weapons of mass destruction or even nuclear weapons. And we haven’t seen anything, Kate, that would make us change our own chilling stance,” Kirby said.

Mention of the air defense system comes amid a series of escalations in the war.

Putin gave a speech last month announcing the partial mobilization of some 300,000 reservists following successful Ukrainian counterattacks and raising the specter of nuclear weapons if he felt Russia’s “territorial integrity” was at risk. And the Russian President recently announced the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

Last week, Biden issued a stark warning about the dangers of Putin’s nuclear threats and raised the prospect of “Armageddon.” But several US officials said the comment was not based on new insights into Putin’s intentions or changes in Russia’s nuclear stance.

This story was updated on Monday with additional information.

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