In a timely escape from Supreme Court drama in Washington, President Joe Biden traveled to Alabama to tour a Lockheed Martin plant. The plant has provided some of the Javelin antitank weapons systems the United States has sent to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s invasion.
“You’re allowing the Ukrainians to defend themselves. And quite frankly, they’re making fools of the Russian military in many instances,” President Biden said in an address to workers at the Lockheed Martin plant Tuesday. “A big part of the reason they’ve been able to keep up fighting and to make this war a strategic failure for Russia is because the United States together with our allies and partners, have had their back.”
According to an analysis by Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies international security program, the U.S. has provided at least 7,000 Javelins to Ukraine in recent years. On Tuesday, Biden said his administration has committed to sending 5,500 javelins since the invasion began.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he is “grateful” for the U.S.’s efforts supporting Ukraine, Biden’s trip to the Lockheed Martin plant has raised concerns from some over America’s Javelin supply. The 7,000 Javelins the U.S. has sent to Ukraine represents about one-third of America’s stockpile. That stockpile could prove to be vital given ongoing tensions with China, Iran and North Korea.
“Could this be a problem? The short answer is, ‘Probably, yes,’” Cancian said.
In Ukraine, all eyes are on Mariupol. Russian forces Tuesday began storming the Azovstal steel mill, which has served as the last Ukrainian stronghold in the city. The move is a reversal from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order last month to not storm the plant.
Tuesday’s storming came two days after 101 people — including women, the elderly, and 17 children — were evacuated from the plant. Those 101 made it to relative safety in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles northwest of Mariupol, on Tuesday.
“We appreciate and are grateful for the Secretary-General and the Red Cross effort to facilitate the evacuations of civilians from Mariupol,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Tuesday. “We say to the Russians that they have to do the right thing, they have to continue to guarantee safe passage for any civilians who wish to leave and not impede in any way, and they must also allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance, particularly food and medicines, to those who are left behind, as well as safe passage for volunteers who have gone in to help those individuals.”
AP contributed to this report.