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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Biden Arms Greece to Support Ukraine, Defying Pro-Russia Opposition

As the Republican Party’s ongoing obstruction of aid to Ukraine extends into its fourth month, the U.S. government, led by President Joe Biden, has devised an innovative approach to equip Ukraine’s forces with the necessary weapons and ammunition for defense.

In a strategy reminiscent of Germany’s circular weapons trade, known as the Ringtausch, the United States is adopting its own version. The plan involves providing Greece with surplus American weapons, and in return, Greece will contribute some of its surplus weaponry to Ukraine. The news, broken by Greek media last week, revealed that the Biden administration offered Greece various military assets, including patrol boats, airlifters, turboprop engines, fighting vehicles, and transport trucks, all classified as U.S. military surplus and available to Greece under the legal authority of “excess defense articles” at no cost.

The Excess Defense Articles law permits the U.S. president to declare military systems as surplus, assign them a value (potentially zero dollars), and donate them with the condition that the recipient handles the transportation. While the law sets an annual cap of $500 million for EDA transfers, it does not specify the assigned value of surplus weapons. In a letter to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to the items as “free concessions.”

These EDA gifts to Greece enhance a broader arms package, including the purchase of Lockheed F-35 stealth fighters. Greece is acquiring these fighters for $8.6 billion, with the Biden administration approving $60 million in financing for Athens’ arms purchases in 2022 and 2023.

Also Read: Russian Drone Strikes Injure 10+ in Southern and Eastern Ukraine

In exchange for the generosity, the U.S. expects Greece to donate more weapons to Ukraine. Blinken expressed ongoing interest in Greece’s defense capabilities that could be transferred or sold to Ukraine, offering potential additional foreign armed forces financing of up to $200 million for Greece after the donation.

The Greek military possesses a range of Soviet- and U.S.-designed weaponry, including air-defense batteries, short-range air-defense vehicles, and air-defense guns, which could be valuable to Ukraine. Reports indicate that Greece is prepared to transfer obsolete systems and equipment to Ukraine.

The delicate nature of the Greek ring-transfer is evident, given tensions between Greece and Turkey. The U.S. typically provides both countries with new weapons simultaneously and in similar quantities. Coinciding with the Greek arms deal, the U.S. State Department authorized Turkey to spend $23 billion on new Lockheed F-16 fighters and upgrade kits, as well as munitions.

This U.S. ring-trade initiative mirrors Germany’s Ringtausch program, which has facilitated the transfer of tanks and heavy weapons to Ukraine. As tensions between the U.S. and Russia persist, such ring trades might become more common, with other countries having surplus weapons that could be exchanged for American offerings.

Given the reluctance of pro-Russia Republicans in the U.S. Congress to approve direct military aid to Ukraine, President Biden is utilizing legal mechanisms, such as EDA authority, to facilitate the transfer of older weapons to Ukraine. This strategy aligns with Biden’s commitment to aiding Ukraine’s defense, even in the face of opposition from Republicans who appear to align with former President Donald Trump’s pro-Russia stance.

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