Politics

State Department approves possible $39 million Javelin missile sale to Ukraine amid Trump impeachment probe

Key Points
  • The State Department on Thursday approved a possible foreign military sale to Ukraine for 150 antitank missiles and related support equipment worth approximately $39.2 million.
  • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky brought up the missiles in the July 25 phone call with President Donald Trump that led Democrats to kick off an impeachment inquiry last week.
  • In addition to the Javelins, the sale would include 10 Javelin Command Launch Units, as well as training equipment and a suite of logistical support services.
U.S. Army infantryman fires a Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missile during a combined arms live fire exercise as part of Exercise Eastern Action 2019 at Al-Ghalail Range in Qatar, Nov. 14, 2018.
US Army photo

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Thursday approved a possible foreign military sale to Ukraine for 150 antitank missiles and related support equipment worth approximately $39.2 million.

Ukraine requested the Javelin missile system early this past summer, and the country's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, brought up the missiles in the July 25 phone call with President Donald Trump that led Democrats to kick off an impeachment inquiry last week.

The Defense Department notified Congress of the possible sale Thursday.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine. The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements," the State Department said in a release.

"It's a defensive contribution, the Javelin," U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the nation's top general in Europe, told reporters at the Pentagon. "It affords a soldier the opportunity to put a resource in his or her hands that affords the opportunity to protect their sovereign turf. It's a sophisticated capability, it's a modern capability, it has great precision, it has great speed."

Ukrainian servisemen ride atop of an APC's with Javelin anti-tank missiles during a military parade in Kiev on August 24, 2018 to celebrate the Independence Day, 27 years since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union. - Around 4,500 servicemen, including dozens representatives of foreign allies like the United States and Great Britain, saluted Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a military parade. Some 250 pieces of military hardware, including advanced Ukrainian weapons the Bohdana 155-mm self-propelled howitzer and the Vilkha multiple-launch rocket system, were shown to the thousands of spectators who waved Ukrainian blue and yellow flags. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Genya Savilov | AFP | Getty Images

In addition to the Javelins, the sale would include 10 Javelin Command Launch Units, as well as training equipment and a suite of logistical support services.

Zelensky brought up Javelin missiles in the now-infamous call with Trump that is at the center of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

In a five-page memorandum of the call released last week, Zelensky noted that Ukraine was "almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes."

Trump responded: "I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine." Trump appears to be referring in this instance to the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

In a separate portion of the 30-minute call, Trump asked Zelensky if he could "look into" unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who previously had a seat on the board of a Ukrainian natural-gas company.

This sale is separate from the $250 million in military aid, authorized months earlier by Congress but held up without a clear explanation by Trump until nearly two months after his call with Zelensky.

Democrats, along with a whistleblower who filed a complaint that brought the call to Congress' attention, are accusing the president of soliciting a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election to favor Trump.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that he was on the call.

The prime contractor for the Javelin Missile System is Raytheon of Waltham, Massachusetts. There are no known offset agreements proposed in conjunction with this potential sale.

CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.