For the first time, the United States has approved the direct delivery of Stinger missiles to Ukraine as part of an aid package approved by the White House on Friday.
The timing for the delivery is not known, but officials say the U.S. is currently working on the logistics of the shipment. The officials agreed to discuss the development only if not quoted by name.
The decision comes on the heels of Germany’s announcement that it will send 500 Stinger missiles and other weapons and supplies to Ukraine.
The high-speed Stingers are very accurate and are used to shoot down helicopters and other aircraft. Ukrainian officials have been asking for more of the powerful weapons.
Estonia has also been providing Ukraine with Stingers since January, and in order to do that had to get U.S. permission.
Russian President Putin has raised its nuclear forces to a “special regime of combat duty”, Fox News reported Sunday.
“He is right now threatening a nuclear escalation,” said former DIA intelligence officer Rebekah Koffler. “This a veiled threat – or maybe such a veiled threat – he just met with his chief of general staff and minister of defense. He is escalating the conflict into the nuclear domain in order to de-escalate – that is topple Kyiv’s regime quickly.”
On Sunday, Putin met with his top advisers and said NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” and that the West was imposing hard-hitting financial sanctions against Russia and himself.
“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Putin’s order is an unacceptable escalation.
“It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable and we have to continue to stem his actions in the strongest possible way,” she said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN, in reaction to Putin’s decision to put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert: “This is dangerous rhetoric. This is a behavior which is irresponsible.”
If Putin is arming or otherwise raising the nuclear combat readiness of his bombers, or if he is ordering more ballistic missile submarines to sea, then the United States might feel compelled to respond in kind, said Hans Kristensen, a nuclear analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. That would mark a worrisome escalation, he said.
On Thursday, Putin said the “consequences” of any attempt to strike back against the country would provoke a response “never seen in history”.
Broadcasted live on television at 5.45 am Moscow time, President Putin said: “Whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never encountered in your history.”
“All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope that I will be heard.”