Over months, the U.S. and allies delivered weapons and other support to Ukraine
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Today marks six months since Vladimir Putin's forces invaded Ukraine with the intention of taking over the entire country. It is also supposed to be a holiday - Ukrainian Independence Day marking 31 years since the country gained its independence from what was then the Soviet Union. Over the last six months, the U.S. and its allies have delivered weapons and other support to Ukrainian forces. Just this morning, President Biden announced that the U.S. will provide Kyiv with a further $3 billion in military aid. For a look at how that funding commitment has evolved over time, we're joined by NPR's national security correspondent Greg Myre. Greg, how have the kinds of weapons the U.S. has sent to Ukraine changed, especially over the last six months?
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Well, it's been pretty dramatic. At the beginning of the war, the U.S. was only sending these small weapons - Javelin or Stinger missiles that were fired by an individual soldier. And the message really was, we want to help you, but perhaps not all that much because we think the Russians could overrun Ukraine pretty quickly. But since Ukrainians fought back with such fierceness and determination, we've seen increasingly larger weapons, many of them artillery guns. And now Ukraine has these HIMARS that can fire rockets close to 50 miles and are very precise. Ukraine is now striking far behind the Russian frontlines. So the weapons keep evolving as the war evolves.
MARTIN: Right. But I mean, can the West keep supplying Ukraine at the same level indefinitely?
MYRE: Well, it almost certainly could. I think the real question is whether the U.S. and NATO become weary of an open-ended military commitment, and it may want to look for diplomatic solutions. Now, the U.S. is by far the main weapons supplier, and Congress approved this $40 billion aid package. A little more than half of it is military. And we see the U.S. announcing new tranches every few weeks. At this pace, the U.S. could keep supplying Ukraine, certainly through the end of the year and perhaps into early next year. So the weapons should keep flowing for at least another several months. But the U.S. and Europe will have to decide how long they're willing to sustain this.
MARTIN: Right. And meanwhile, there are other needs, right? I mean, what about humanitarian aid, money needed to keep the Ukrainian government going, just the overall economy?
MYRE: Right. And that's where the other part of this U.S. package comes in. The U.S. is giving significant financial and humanitarian aid as well, but Ukraine needs an estimated $5 billion a month to keep the government running, keep the economy functioning. And we are going to be seeing a crunch pretty soon. Millions of Ukrainians are displaced. Fall and winter is coming fast, and that will require even extra help in terms of energy and other services.
MARTIN: So, I mean, we're always looking to how this ends, right? And Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in this speech he gave to mark Independence Day that Ukraine intends to retake the regions that are occupied now by Russia, that any negotiated settlement to end the war cannot allow Russia to hold those areas. Do Ukrainians think that that is realistic?
MYRE: Well, probably some do, and some don't, but I think they would agree with President Zelenskyy. They're always quick to note that Russia invaded in 2014 and has been occupying part of their country for eight years. And they say they just can't concede territory because Russia will simply swallow Ukraine in bites and that they believe that if they concede territory now, it wouldn't end the conflict. It would just put a hold on things, and then Russia would decide to strike again at some future date of its choosing.
MARTIN: NPR's Greg Myre, thank you.
MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.