US to Prioritize Ukraine in Air Defense Missile Deliveries

The White House declared on Thursday that it will expedite the delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine by diverting planned shipments to other allied nations, as Washington endeavors to counter intensified Russian aggression.

John Kirby, the national security spokesperson, stated that the U.S. has made the “difficult but necessary decision to reprioritize near-term planned deliveries of foreign military sales to other countries,” although he refrained from disclosing which nations would be affected or the specific quantities involved.

“At this juncture, we are aware that Ukraine urgently requires these supplementary capabilities,” Kirby remarked during a call with reporters, adding, “Undeniably, more is needed, and it is required without delay.”

This announcement follows President Joe Biden’s suggestion during last week’s Group of Seven meeting in Italy that such measures might be necessary. He indicated, “We’ve made it clear to those nations anticipating air defense systems from us in the future that they will have to wait.”

“All our resources will be directed towards Ukraine until their needs are met,” Biden asserted. “Subsequently, we will fulfill the commitments we made to other countries.”

The U.S. was already providing Ukraine with a steady supply of interceptors for its air defense systems, including those for the Patriot missile batteries and the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS. However, Kirby emphasized the urgent need for more, citing Russia’s escalated missile and drone attacks against Ukrainian cities and infrastructure centers, aimed at disrupting Ukraine’s energy system ahead of winter.

Russia has resumed its aerial bombardment while Ukrainian forces are once again targeting Russian oil facilities with drone strikes, as each side seeks to hinder the other’s ability to sustain combat operations.

While the precise number of interceptors to be sent remains unclear, Kirby mentioned it could involve “hundreds” of Patriot interceptor missiles.

Kirby assured that Ukraine will receive prioritized shipments as soon as systems roll off assembly lines for approximately the next 16 months, providing the country with “sufficient capability” during that timeframe.

Following that period, he stated, “Nations that have been requested to defer will commence receiving” deliveries of systems they had previously ordered.

Kirby clarified that this move will result in “a range of countries” experiencing delays in receiving missile systems that are being diverted to Ukraine, but it will not impact Taiwan or what it “continues to require and receive for self-defense” in the face of potential threats from China.

When asked to elaborate on how other countries responded to this shift, Kirby indicated that they were “generally understanding.”

“They recognize the critical need in Ukraine,” he concluded.