Trump admin approves new sale of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

Dovapi/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration has approved the $39 million sale of defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials and another source familiar with the plan.

U.S. arms sales to Ukraine have become embroiled in a controversy over President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, after the White House ordered nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine to be withheld and Ukraine’s new president raised arms sales with Trump on a controversial July 25 call.

The new package will include Javelin anti-tank weapons, with one U.S. official saying it includes 150 missiles and two launchers, which was first reported by Bloomberg News.

The State Department declined to comment on potential arms sales, but it will formally notify Capitol Hill of the sale soon, according to all three sources. The sale is expected to receive approval from Congress, which stipulated that they also receive a briefing on arms sales to Ukraine, according to one official and the source familiar with the plan. That briefing could happen as soon as this week.

The sale of Javelins is not part of the nearly $400 million of military assistance that the White House had ordered the State Department and Pentagon to withhold a week before Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. That aid, which has since been released, included assistance for maritime security, special operations units, secure communications and light weapons like sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

But Javelins were discussed on Trump and Zelenskiy’s call on July 25, which has prompted an impeachment inquiry.

“We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes,” Zelenskiy told Trump, according to a memo of the call released by the White House on Sept. 25.

“I would like you to do us a favor though,” Trump responded, asking Zelenskiy to work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate Crowdstrike — an apparent reference to what has repeatedly been described as a debunked conspiracy around the 2016 presidential election that posits that the Democratic National Convention’s server, which was hacked by Russian intelligence, is missing and in Ukraine.

The Trump administration first approved the sale of Javelins to Ukraine in December 2017 — a step that former President Barack Obama never took and that Trump allies have pointed to as a sign of Trump’s toughness on Russia. Ukraine has been fighting Russian-armed and led separatists in its eastern provinces since 2014, shortly after Russia illegally occupied and annexed Crimea, in a war that has claimed approximately 13,000 lives and displaced 1.5 million people, according to the Ukrainian government.

That first sale, which was completed in March 2018, included 210 Javelin missiles and 37 launch units and was intended to “help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements,” according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

U.S. officials, including special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker who resigned last week for his role in the Giuliani effort, have said since that sale that they are in discussions with Ukraine about selling it more Javelins.

On July 7, William Taylor, the top diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, announced that Ukraine had requested to purchase military equipment. One month later, charge d’affaires Taylor told Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe that Ukraine specifically had asked for more Javelins.

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