American weapons are flowing into Ukraine.
President Joe Biden has asked Congress to send $33 billion in emergency aid to the country at war with Russia, and the United States House has raised the pot to $40 billion, of which about 60% goes to security assistance in one form or another. A bipartisan majority in the Senate is expected to approve it this week. This is an unprecedented acceleration that relies on the rapid transfer of billions of dollars weapons already sent.
As Russia’s brutal invasion enters its third month, it’s understandable why the United States, a close partner of Ukraine and ally of 29 other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries , have made supporting the country a national security priority. But it is worth taking a step back to consider the magnitude of the military aid to Ukraine, what this means for the future of the country and whether these weapons end up where they’re supposed to.
An apples-for-apples comparison of US Ukraine security aid vs. to other countries is not so simple, because aid comes from so many different funds and because security aid takes many forms. (This is not unique to Ukraine; tracking the various security aid flows the United States sends around the world is complicated enough that think tanks have entire programs devoted to it.)
The most conservative analysis of US security aid for Ukraine, allocated since the Russian invasion on February 24, will amount to about $9.8 billion once Congress passes the new appropriation.
That includes $6 billion for a new fund called the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in the upcoming bill, according to a fact sheet published by the House Appropriations Committee. This will go towards arms, salaries of military officials and other forms of intelligence, logistics and training support. It is in addition to $3.8 billion value of weapons from the United States’ own stockpiles that the Biden administration has shipped since February.
“You know they’re accelerating it when they create an entirely separate budget category for it,” says Lauren Woods, who tracks weapons budgets closely as director of the Center for Security Assistance Monitor. International Policy. “That’s a really huge request, and I’m really not sure most Americans understand how important that is.”
Compare Ukraine’s $9.8 billion to the $4 billion the United States gave last year to Afghanistan before the United States withdrew its troops, or about $3 billion or more that the United States gave to Israel every year for four decades.
The United States has sent everything from Javelin anti-tank missiles to Switchblade drones, artillery and body armor, and increasingly high-tech equipment like laser-guided rocket systems, surveillance radars and Mi-17 helicopters, as detailed in a recent list issued by the Ministry of Defence. And it’s having a real effect on The battlefieldas Russia’s scaled-down offensive in the east falters.
This tranche for Ukraine is only part of the picture.
The number could be even larger, because there is $4 billion in foreign military funding (US taxpayers’ money to guarantee purchase of US weapons by other countries) allocated to Ukraine and NATO allies as part of Congressional appropriations.
Then there’s the $8.7 billion in Congressional funds to replenish US arms stockpiles, likely replenishing much of what has been sent to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February, in especially missiles. The Biden administration has sent these under what is called the withdrawal authority, so that emergency weapons can reach the country as quickly as possible.
Experts say they have never seen these stocks recover to this volume. There is also $3.9 billion for European partners supporting the mission (including hardship allowance for troops), $600 million for the United States to increase arms production, and $500 million dollars for the Pentagon to buy more ammunition, which totals about $24 billion, a staggering number according to every expert I interviewed.
The United States is by far the largest arms seller and supplier of military assistance in the world. It’s a central part of US foreign policy, so this method of support is, in a sense, unsurprising. But still, overall, aid to Ukraine is gigantic compared to what the United States sends abroad in any given year. Typically, depending on Security Assistance MonitorUS military assistance worldwide has hovered around $20 billion most years since 2013, with 2007 peaking at $30.6 billion.
In short, it is a massive investment in Ukrainian and European security. If the war in Ukraine drags on for years, this level of funding will likely be not be sustainable. This is already shaping Ukraine’s pushback from the Russian invasion, but it could also catalyze other long-term effects.
What so many weapons could mean for Ukraine
Earlier this month, Biden toured the Lockheed Martin factory that makes anti-tank missiles known as Javelins, which have become a hot commodity in Ukraine’s fight against Russian forces. This visit showed how integrated military support is into American foreign policy, especially in a conflict where the United States is not going to get directly involved.
“So these weapons, touched by hands — your hands — are in the hands of Ukrainian heroes, which makes a significant difference,” Biden told workers at the Lockheed facility in Troy, Alabama.
It would have been “unthinkable” for Biden to visit an arms factory before the war in Ukraine, according to Stimson Center analyst Elias Yousif. “The president came into office promoting a broad view of human rights considerations in American foreign policy,” he told me. “The optics of visiting the arms factory may not fit that message very well.”
Biden’s presence at Lockheed, his visit to an Ohio metals plant with executives from other arms makers a few days later, and a Pentagon roundtable with other industry leaders from the armament to see how strengthening supply chains embodied the emergence of the wartime president. William Hartung, a military budget expert at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, says “certainly more than half” of foreign military funding ends up in the pockets of military contractors like Lockheed.
The most important prospective question is what’s going to happen with all these weapons. Ukraine ranks in bottom third of Transparency International watchdog group corruption rankingand there are serious concerns about Ukraine during the last years be a link illicit arms trafficking. “Ukraine certainly has corruption issues, and if that’s the case in any country, you can be sure that some of these weapons will be lost, transferred, or sold,” Woods, a former department official, told me. of state.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) withheld the Senate bill on Thursday as he called for a government watchdog to monitor taxpayer funds going to Ukraine. “I would say we agree that monitoring is essential. That’s why the package already includes millions of dollars to support additional oversight measures, including additional funding for existing inspectors general,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. said in a briefing.
Congress implements an accounting process in the massive funding bill to monitor what weapons are actually purchased, and an ‘end-use monitoring’ program to ensure weapons sent to Ukraine end up where they do are meant to be. (The Arms Export Control Act 1976 requires U.S. arms transfers must be subject to end-use monitoring.) It is not an ultimate solution. “Actually, the term ‘end-use monitoring’ is a bit of a misnomer, because it’s not actually monitoring end-use,” Yousif told me. “What it does is basically catalog the location and management of US sourced defense articles. It doesn’t really, let’s say, track how a government or a country uses the equipment, just that equipment is accounted for in some way.
Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Ukraine, said it’s difficult to monitor wartime end use, but the country is trying. “What I hear from our armed forces and the Ministry of Defense is that we are ready to implement all the necessary mechanisms – digital tools, procedures to upgrade our system to the most possible high level taking into account NATO standards”, Kaleniuk said during his visit to Washington to advocate for the Ukraine aid program, especially F-16s from US stockpiles, tanks and other advanced weapons. “We desperately need weapons to win the war and we are ready to do whatever it takes to make our NATO allies, especially the United States, happy and trust us.”
The worst-case scenario would be for more weapons to contribute to new spillover effects, perhaps even bringing the United States into more direct conflict with nuclear-powered Russia. “Does this lead to an escalation of war, or even an engagement between US and NATO troops and Russian forces, as if Putin decided he was going to bomb arms supply lines? ” said Hartung. “Going so fast, with so little discussion, also increases that risk.”
The Biden administration has described Ukraine’s resolve against Russia as a battle of freedom against tyranny, a battle worth investing in. The security assistance helps “support Ukraine’s ability to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to oppose brutal and unprovoked Russian aggression,” Jessica Lewis, deputy secretary of the Department of Security State for Politico-Military Affairs, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said this week.
One thing is clear: this level of immediate support for Ukraine and its European allies goes even beyond Heights annual US security assistance to Afghanistan or Iraq.