President Joe Biden is sending Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, which could be used to shoot down Russian helicopters.
On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that he “authorized the [Department of Defense] to provide an additional $350 million in immediate military assistance to Ukraine to help defend itself from Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war.”
And according to the Army Times, the direct delivery of Stinger missiles is part of a military aid package that was approved last week. The missiles operate as a shoulder-fired weapon that homes in on its target via infrared, which could aid the Ukrainians against helicopter gunships.
“Once the Stinger’s employed, it has the ability to be a game-changer,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Jim Dubik said. “The Russians don’t have air dominance, but they do have air superiority ― and the Stingers won’t take that away, but it’ll be contested airspace, and that hurts the Russians’ ability to conduct operations and increases Ukraine’s ability to defend.
In addition, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday that his country planned on sending Ukraine 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles. This would represent a major shift in policy for Germany, as the country previously declined to send lethal aid. Along with Germany, other European countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, have also agreed to send Ukraine weapons, according to Insider.
Despite the aid to Ukraine, it may be as far as the U.S. is willing to go so as not to provoke Russia in ways that U.S. would like to avoid — particularly in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week of putting nuclear deterrents on a combat level status.
But top officials in Ukraine have still called on the U.S. to provide more sophisticated weapons such as the advanced systems like that of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea. Since then, the U.S. has poured billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine, providing the country with Javelin anti-tank missiles, night vision goggles, small arms and ammunition, patrol boats, and even military training.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. was reluctant to provide lethal aid amid concerns of escalating conflict with Russia. The policy changed under the Trump administration and has remained in place.
During the Soviet Union’s war with Afghanistan in the 1980s, Stinger missiles provided by the U.S. were used by the mujahedeen — freedom fighters, or holy warriors — to put a dent in Soviet air control. The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Jack Devine, who took over the CIA’s Afghan Task Force in the mid-1980s, called it “one of the CIA’s finest moments.”
In 1994, however, the mujahedeen would form the Taliban. Reports indicate that after the mujahedeen formed into the Taliban, the CIA ran into difficulties recovering the Stinger missiles, recouping only a fraction of those provided.