Baltics given approval to send US-made weapons to Ukraine

The flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia were given permission to transfer American-made lethal weapons, such as anti-armor and ground-to-air missiles, to Ukraine as fears grow of an invasion by Russian forces, website Politico reported on Wednesday.

The publication reported the requests had been submitted in recent weeks but were caught up in White House bureaucracy. But by the end of the day, the last of the requests had been approved.

Politico cited information from Baltic officials and people familiar with the discussions. 

U.S. export control regulations require countries to obtain approval from the State Department before passing along their weapons.

Elias Yousif, an analyst of arms transfer policy at the Stimson Center, told Politico the U.S.'s Foreign Assistance Act mandates that a third party transfer has to meet certain standards, including whether the U.S. would have made the same transfer if it chose to. He said the U.S. can speed up the process if it wants to.

Last month, Estonia said it was "considering" sending Ukraine its Javelin anti-armor missiles and 122-mm howitzers but was waiting on U.S., Finnish and German approval.

In December, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas pledged to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, though he declined to specify what they might be. 

Javelin missile system during EDF conscript training. Source: Ardi Hallismaa

Estonia and Lithuania purchased Javelins from the U.S. in 2014 and 2015.

Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops on the eastern border of Ukraine in recent months, leading some experts to believe a further invasion of the country is likely.

Earlier this week, Russia and Belarus announced joint military drills on the Ukrainian border.

Last year, the U.S. transferred $650 million worth of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine, the most during any single year since security assistance began in 2014.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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