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A look at the stream of weapons the U.S. is supplying to Ukraine


Russia's military has far greater firepower than Ukraine's forces, but to the surprise of almost everyone, Ukraine has punched back hard and held its own against Russia. The U.S. is supplying many of Ukraine's most effective weapons, which flow into the country daily. For details, we're joined by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Hey, Greg.


SHAPIRO: Start by giving us a breakdown of the weapons that the U.S. is now supplying to Ukraine.

MYRE: The U.S. is really focused on these small portable weapons. And I'll mention a couple in particular - the javelins, which are shoulder-fired and are taking out tanks and armored vehicles; the stingers, which are pretty similar, again, shoulder-fired, but they're directed at helicopters, low-flying planes; and now the U.S. is going to be adding these so-called kamikaze drones to supplement the drones that Ukraine already has. Now, all of these weapons can be fired by a single soldier, and it's really in contrast to the big, bulky weapons that the Russians are using and relying on, like tanks. The pace of delivery has picked up dramatically. It used to take weeks or months for the U.S. to deliver weapons before the war. Now it's just taking days. President Biden authorized $350 million of new weapons at the beginning of the war. Almost all of that has been sent, and more is on the way.

SHAPIRO: How does it actually get to the front lines of the war in Ukraine from the U.S.?

MYRE: So the Pentagon has been taking it off the shelf and flying it to Eastern Europe, countries like Poland and the Baltics. And a Washington Post reporter recently got to see how some of this works once it gets there. The weapons are loaded onto vehicles, jeeps and armor-plated SUVs and bank trucks. And then vehicles, like maybe eight of them, are packed with weapons, are placed on the back of those transport trucks that carry cars along the highway. These trucks travel for hours till they reach unmarked spots on the border between Poland and Ukraine. The vehicles with the weapons come off the transport truck. They're handed over to the Ukrainian military and volunteers who then drive them deep into Ukraine.

SHAPIRO: Given that the U.S. is talking about these deliveries publicly, why is Russia unable to stop it?

MYRE: Well, the Russian forces are all over the eastern half of Ukraine, but they're not in the west. Now, Russia says it has fired some missiles long range and hit some weapons depots in the west. But even that doesn't seem to be having much of an impact. The weapons are flowing into Ukraine daily. They're not gathering dust in a warehouse. They're being delivered and put to use. U.S. officials are being asked daily if Russia is disrupting this delivery pipeline. And they say really the opposite is true. The delivery system just seems to be getting more and more streamlined.

SHAPIRO: What more is Ukraine asking for?

MYRE: Well, Ukraine wants bigger and more powerful weapons systems. We've heard a lot about the MiG fighter jets from Poland that they would like, large anti-aircraft systems to take down the high-flying Russian warplanes. But the U.S. has really objected, saying that these are large systems that are would be hard to move into Ukraine. Troops would need to be trained. They would require large units to operate. They're not small and portable. And that said, Ukraine says today that it did take out a Russian warship with a missile. And we've seen video of this today. And there is talk at NATO today about possibly supplying missiles that could hit these Russian ships. So there is ongoing discussions about adding additional weapons.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Greg Myre. Thank you.

MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.