Biden pumps billions into the long war in Ukraine: Politico
The US involvement in Ukraine's war seems to take a whole new level, as Washington plans to make Kiev able to defend itself independently in the future.
The involvement of the US in the Ukraine war hit on Wednesday a new phase, as the Biden administration kicked off an effort to send billions of dollars directly into the US defense industry to back Kiev's long-term fight against Moscow.
Not only that, but the White House is also working on a new plan, to be sent to Congress, that would replenish the stores of NATO Baltic allies who have sent their own weapons to help Ukraine in the fight.
US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he is sending $2.98 billion in new military support to Ukraine that would enable forces there to fight for years to come. In a statement, Biden said the newly instated $3 billion military assistance will allow Ukraine to acquire defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, drones, and other equipment “to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term.” The move is a big shift in how Washington has supplied Kiev, from pulling existing weapons off of shelves to awarding contracts to defense companies for weapons that need to be built.
It will take months, or even years, for the weapons to arrive, but officials say the investment will make Kiev able to start planning for its own defense in the future. Some hope that other rich European countries, which might have lagged sometimes in supporting Ukraine, might do the same in the coming months.
“What needs to happen now is to build that longer-term pipeline,” one Western diplomat told Politico on the condition of anonymity.
“At some point, particularly for the U.S., U.K., and some of the near neighbors like Estonia and Poland who have been generous with the equipment they have, [donating existing stocks] isn’t going to be sustainable forever.”
Some analysts were surprised that Wednesday’s package includes artillery and mortar rounds, which the US has been massively supplying out of its own stockpiles.
“This might signal that some of these items are getting short in the DoD inventories and that DoD cannot supply them out of existing stocks,” a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ international security program, Mark Cancian said.
Production delays and cold manufacturing lines result in the possibility that these items could be slow to reach both the US and Ukraine.
Though legislators have provided annually several hundred million dollars, Congress greatly increased the account in size following the start of the Ukraine war in February. In May, the emergency supplemental package became law. The legislation allocated $6 billion to the program, making it equal to other special programs to strengthen US military training and posture in Eastern Europe and the Indo-Pacific region.
In all, "Congress has set aside $6.3 billion for the Pentagon-administered effort: $6 billion as part of May’s $40 billion supplemental assistance legislation and $300 million in a government-wide funding package that passed in March. As of Aug. 1, just $1.8 billion of that cash had been used," according to Pentagon documentation seen by Politico. Wednesday’s announcement by the US president leaves about $1.5 billion left to be spent.
The humanitarian and military assistance package, amounting to $40 billion, was supposed to last at least through the fall.
$19 billion of the package was for immediate military support to Kiev, while $3.9 billion was to sustain US forces deployed to Europe, and $2 billion was dedicated to the long-term support of NATO allies and US modernization programs.
That military support includes the $6 billion for the Pentagon account to provide Ukraine with arms and $4 billion in State Department foreign military funding for Ukraine and other NATO nations on the alliance’s eastern edge. Roughly $9 billion will be allotted by the Pentagon for the defense industry to restock stores of missiles and other weapons shipped to Kiev.
Further emergency funding would be needed later in the year. However, it is unclear if this will happen.
According to proponents, since the funding for another large Ukraine package might face difficulties on Capitol Hill, the uncertain political map in the US makes these long-term contracts even more important to put Ukraine on solid footing.
Still, regardless of whether President Biden is looking for another supplemental, more money is on the way. Both the Senate and House Appropriations committees have proposed giving the Pentagon another $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for fiscal 2023.
A final deal to fund the federal government and the military probably will not be struck until late this year or early next year, however, and the supplemental Ukraine money could go higher if legislators agree to give the Pentagon even more money.
In the $40 billion supplemental, a provision was also included to help NATO frontline states Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia refill their arsenals after they donated nearly $600 million worth of weapons and supplies to Kiev this year.
By the end of the month, Congress is expected to receive the State Department's plan on how over $150 million will be spent in replenishment contracts, according to a European diplomat's information to Politico. It will be spent in quite the same way as the Ukraine package, awarding contracts to the US defense industry to build weapons for the allies.
When the war started, the Baltic states' trio sent a big number of their Stinger and Javelin missiles, along with small, howitzers, mortars, and communications equipment, and the three countries are eager to replenish their stocks.
They have come out forcefully supporting ceasing Russian energy imports to Europe and banning visas for Russian tourists. Such actions have put them in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.
As part of the Baltic Security Initiative in the 2022 federal budget, the US pledged the three states $180 million in military support, which amounts to an increase of $10 million over the 2021 package.
$64.5 million was also pledged to Estonia to acquire the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System that has proved to be effective against Russian forces in Kiev. In July, Congress approved the sale of six HIMARS to Estonia.