Biden is reportedly sending Ukraine old Soviet air defense weapons from America's own secret stockpile

Soviet-era SA-8
(Image credit: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. went on a secret buying spree to collect "a small number of Soviet missile defense systems so that they could be examined by U.S. intelligence experts and help with training American forces," The Wall Street Journal reports. Now, the U.S. is sending some of those air defense systems to Ukraine to help Ukrainian forces shoot down Russian fighter jets and missiles. Ukrainian soldiers already know how to operate old Soviet weapons systems.

President Biden was authorized to give Ukraine and NATO allies the weapons systems from the secret Soviet stockpile under the annual spending bill he recently signed, and Congress has been notified about these transfers, the Journal reports, citing U.S. officials. "Ukraine already possesses some Russian air defense systems, including the S-300. It needs more such systems, however," and "the U.S. is hoping that the provision of additional air defenses will enable Ukraine to create a de facto no-fly zone."

Among the Soviet weapons systems the U.S. has given Ukraine are the SA-8 portable missiles defense system, the Journal reports. The SA-8 and SA-10, NATO's name for the S-300, "can operate at medium and long range to blunt Russia's aircraft and missile attacks," whereas "the shoulder-fired Stinger missiles that the U.S. and NATO nations are providing to Ukraine are only effective against helicopters and low-flying aircraft."

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The U.S. is also publicly negotiating with NATO former Soviet satellite nations to donate their S-300s and other old Soviet systems to Ukraine, with the U.S. replacing the donated weapons with new U.S. systems. Slovakia agreed last week to send Ukraine some of its S-300 weapons once the U.S. provides it with Patriot or other replacement air defense systems. Those talks are still ongoing.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.