The United States received a formal note from Russia this week, warning that by shipping the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine, the U.S. and NATO are “adding fuel” to the conflict and could be risking “unpredictable consequences.”
The diplomatic démarche follows a call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from President Joe Biden, after which the White House announced an additional $800 million in “weapons, ammunition, and other security assistance” would be headed Zelenskyy’s way.
The new package includes “155 mm howitzers — a serious upgrade in long-range artillery to match Russian systems — coastal defense drones and armored vehicles, as well as additional portable antiaircraft and antitank weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition,” The Washington Post reported.
“The United States has also facilitated the shipment to Ukraine of long-range air defense systems, including Slovakia’s shipment of Russian-manufactured Soviet-era S-300 launchers on which Ukrainian forces have already been trained,” WaPo stated. “In exchange, the administration announced last week, the United States is deploying a Patriot missile system to Slovakia and consulting with Slovakia on a long-term replacement.”
According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, the diplomatic démarche was one of several similar notes regarding arms shipments to Ukraine that was sent to “all countries.”
Ukrainian fighter pilot known by his call sign Juice urged partners to provide Ukraine with more and better aircrafts to effectively oppose Russian invasion#StandWithUkraine pic.twitter.com/UxRnjjuOoD
— Stratcom Centre UA (@StratcomCentre) April 16, 2022
The note, titled “On Russia’s concerns in the context of massive supplies of weapons and military equipment to the Kiev regime,” was dated Tuesday and forwarded by the Russian Embassy in Washington to the State Department in Russian with an English translation. It points to “multiple launch rocket systems” as part of the “most sensitive” systems mentioned, despite the fact that neither the U.S. nor its NATO allies are thought to have provided those weapons to Ukraine.
Additionally, Russia accused its opposition of violating the “rigorous principles” that govern the transfer of weapons to conflict zones, stating Ukraine’s allies are discounting “the threat of high-precision weapons falling into the hands of radical nationalists, extremists and bandit forces in Ukraine.”
NATO, Russia alleged, is trying to pressure Ukraine to “abandon” negotiations with Moscow “in order to continue the bloodshed, and the U.S. is exerting its own pressure on other countries, encouraging those in possession of Soviet-era weapons to send them to Ukraine and calling for them to cease any military or technical cooperation with the Russian Federation.
“We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security,” the government’s position demands.
According to one senior Biden administration official, it’s a sign that U.S. strategy is working.
“What the Russians are telling us privately is precisely what we’ve been telling the world publicly — that the massive amount of assistance that we’ve been providing our Ukrainian partners is proving extraordinarily effective,” the official told WaPo.
But former National Security Council director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs, Andrew Weiss, is reminded of a speech given by Russian President Vladimir Putin back on the February morning of the invasion’s start and a previous warning that nations in the West would face “consequences greater than any you have faced in history” should they interfere in the conflict.
While many focused their attention on Russia’s massive nuclear capabilities, Weiss said the comment was also “a very explicit warning about not sending weapons into a conflict zone,” and now that the West has crossed that red line, Weiss wonders if Moscow is “now inclined to back that up?”
An attack such as that, says Weiss would mark “a very important escalatory move, first and foremost because it represents a threat to the West if they aren’t able to keep supplies flowing into Ukraine, which by extension, might diminish Ukraine’s capacity for self-defense.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby echoed similar concerns on Thursday.
“We don’t take any movement of weapons and systems going into Ukraine for granted,” Kirby said. “Not on any given day.”
The new arms package reportedly brings the total cost of U.S. military aid to Ukraine since the start of the invasion to $3.2 billion.
Neither the U.S. State Department nor the Russian Embassy in D.C. responded to requests for comment from the news outlet on the two-page diplomatic démarche.
The first shipments of weapons are expected to arrive in Ukraine within days.
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