Within 48 hours of President Biden approving a $350 million security aid package for Ukraine on Feb. 26, two days after Russia invaded the country, the first shipment of U.S. weapons were arriving at airfields near Ukraine's border, ready for transfer to Ukrainian Soviet-era transport planes, U.S. officials tell The New York Times. "In less than a week, the United States and NATO have pushed more than 17,000 antitank weapons, including Javelin missiles, over the borders of Poland and Romania," to Kyiv and other major cities.
The "vast majority" of the $350 million package, or about $240 million worth of arms, has already been delivered to Ukraine, and the rest should cross the border in days or weeks, "but not longer," a U.S. official told CNN on Friday. So far, the Times reports, "Russian forces have been so preoccupied in other parts of the country that they have not targeted the arms supply lines, but few think that can last."
"The window for doing easy stuff to help the Ukrainians has closed," Maj. Gen. Michael S. Repass, a former commander of U.S. Special Operations forces in Europe, told the Times. Along with the U.S., 13 other countries have sent security assistance to Ukraine, CNN reports, including traditionally neutral countries like Sweden.
"To understand the warp-speed nature of the arms transfers underway now, consider this: A $60 million arms package to Ukraine that the U.S. announced last August was not completed until November," the Times reports.
The U.S. is also assisting Ukraine with intelligence on Russian troop movements and is conducting cyber operations from bases around Eastern Europe, but Biden has laid strict ground rules to prevent the U.S. from being drawn into a direct war with nuclear-armed Russia, the Times reports. For example, not even U.S. surveillance aircraft is being allowed to fly over Ukraine, and only general intelligence is being passed on to Ukraine's military and intelligence agencies, in part because U.S. officials are convinced they are "populated with Russian spies" and in part so as not to "give Russia an excuse to say it is fighting the United States or NATO, not Ukraine."
Editor's note: This article incorrectly said the U.S. aid package was $350 billion, not $350 million. We apologize for the mistake.