August 24 is Independence Day of Ukraine. It has also been six months since Russian dictator Vladimir Putin launched an illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. And now it is the largest US military aid package since the war began.
President Joe Biden marked the occasion by congratulating the people of Ukraine on their continued freedom and announcing a military aid package designed to make Ukraine a free and independent nation. In a statement, Biden expressed admiration for how Ukraine “stood firm and strong” in the face of Russian aggression, and reiterated that the United States remains committed to supporting Ukraine in this conflict.
Biden announced that the new package of military aid would include “approximately $2.98 billion in arms and equipment.” The package will include “air defense systems, artillery systems and weapons, anti-unmanned aerial systems, and radar to ensure it can continue to defend itself for the long term.” It’s unclear if the package includes any new categories of military systems that weren’t included in previous packages (ie, don’t expect a wing of F-32s or a quiver of ballistic missiles), but it does include more for HIMARS. Ammunition is likely to be involved. Systems that have proven to be effective alone, as well as other drones, are becoming critical to countering this attack.
The package uses funds earmarked by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which authorized Biden to purchase new systems for Ukraine. In addition, the president has used his authority to send hundreds of vehicles, anti-tank weapons, and large quantities of ammunition to Ukraine, drawing down existing U.S. stockpiles of weapons, systems, and ammunition in storage. With this latest package, the total value of US military aid to Ukraine is estimated to exceed $11 billion. With this package, much of the USAI funding appears to be ending, although Biden has also announced the renewal of the World War II-era “Lend Lease” program, another way to get Ukraine the vehicles and systems it needs. provides the way. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the total combination of funding and drawdowns available to Biden for use in Ukraine is more than $23 billion.
“I know this Independence Day is bittersweet for many Ukrainians as thousands have been killed or injured, millions have been displaced from their homes, and many more have been victims of Russian atrocities and attacks,” Biden said. “But six months of continuous attacks have strengthened Ukrainians’ pride in themselves, in their country, and in their 31 years of independence. Today and every day, we stand with the Ukrainian people to declare that the darkness that drives dictatorship is no match for the flame of freedom that lights the souls of free people everywhere.
The package follows quickly on the heels of a $775 million package that was sent last week, and which contained ammunition for HIMARS rocket systems and M777 howitzers, as well as a variety of defensive systems and anti-aircraft weapons.
Expect an update when a more detailed list of systems to be included in this package is available.
The arrival of HIMARS could halt the Russian advance
In late June, the Ukrainian military welcomed the arrival of the first US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) after overcoming a significant logistical challenge posed by Kos. Almost immediately, every attack against a Russian target began to be attributed to the rocket system, even though the country had only a handful of systems. It is certain that HIMARS was receiving credit for successful attacks by other means – a trend that remains – but within days, St. HIMARS began to displace St. Javelin as the patron saint of the Ukrainian battlefield.
HIMARS Every “HIMARS O’Clock!” is not responsible for The detonation was celebrated on the battlefield or posted on social media, but its appearance in Ukraine appears to have played a major role, putting the brakes on Russian advances in HIMARS.
After Russia captured Lysichensk in early July, there was a burst of activity in the days immediately following, with Ukrainian forces pulling back the Siversk-Bakhmut line and Russia capturing several towns and villages. And then … well, nothing, but very close to it. In nearly two months of fighting, “increased gains” don’t seem to be enough to describe how little new territory Russia has taken.
And although Russia has captured all or some of the countryside east of the Ukrainian line, it is losing territory south west of Izyum. Bohorodychne, which has been the target of Russian attempts for weeks, is now once again under Ukrainian control. The whole line from Dubrovnik to Dolina is similar.
Russia has made small gains here and there over the past three weeks, including capturing small villages around Bakhmut. However, it’s safe to say that the past month has been seen Almost no success for Russia. There have been hundreds of failed attacks, often more than a dozen a day.
The slowness of Russian progress is so obvious that even Russia has to address it. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed on Tuesday that Russia’s failure to advance was a “conscious decision” because Russia is concerned about “minimizing civilian casualties.” Everything is going according to plan, says Shoigu.
A reminder: the plan is to take Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and the surrounding area, allowing Russia to claim the entire Donbass. But Russia’s progress toward that goal since the fall of Lysychansk has been minimal.
Here is the UK Ministry of Defense’s assessment of the current situation in Ukraine: “The Donbas offensive is making minimal progress and Russia expects a major Ukrainian counter-offensive. Operationally, Russia is struggling with shortages of weapons, vehicles and personnel. Morale is bad…”
Here’s the latest from Ukraine’s own general staff, detailing how Russia tried to advance on three fronts and failed on all counts. This failure has become such a regular feature that updating control maps is now a matter of correcting erroneous intelligence rather than listing changes.
The reasons for Russia running out of steam are many, but the biggest suspect for this change of pace is the same one that is suspected in every explosion in Ukraine right now: HIMARS.
In part, this is because HIMARS is clearly used for a specific purpose: taking out high-value targets beyond the range of standard artillery. It includes shots of the Kharkiv and Nova Kakhovka bridges that changed the entire tone of events in Kherson. And it has included one big and beautiful boom after another on the sites of places that Russia felt they were securely under their control.
This is the blast that took place in Shakhtarsk of Donetsk Oblast on Wednesday. It is east of Piski, which has been the scene of heavy fighting for the past two weeks, except about 50 km behind the Shakhtarsk lines. There are reports that it could be both an ammunition depot and a command center. Naturally, the explosion is being attributed to HIMARS.
There is a whole series of attacks at Nova Kakhovka, also attributed to HIMARS.
Maybe something else will come along to displace HIMARS in cult status. Like … whatever it is it’s reducing those strikes in Crimea. And the relatively small number of HIMARS systems right now doesn’t give Ukraine what it needs to move from defense to offense.
But HIMARS has put a brake on the Russian army. And it’s not bad.