How Biden could help Ukraine with arms without Congress

Tuesday, 16 April 2024 —

Over six months of deadlock in the US Congress, passing new aid legislation for Ukraine, is likely coming to an end this week.

Both sides of American politics, including Trumpists, have declared a consensus for providing quick assistance to Ukraine for the first time. The process is likely to move forward this week. No one can guarantee though that the situation will not repeat itself.

Read more about whether the White House has more stable alternative ways to provide assistance to Ukraine in an article by Marianna Fakhurdinova, Associate Research Fellow at the New Europe Center – Three ways and one obstacle: how US can provide military assistance to Ukraine's Armed Forces even without a budget.

In 2022, the US Congress approved over $80 billion in military, financial and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine through four supplementary funding acts – Ukraine Supplemental Appropriation Acts.


These funds are managed by a dozen US agencies to provide assistance to Ukraine through various programmes.

According to Congress, military aid provided to Ukraine through various instruments and programmes since the full-scale war, i.e., for 2022-2023, has exceeded $48 billion, making the United States Ukraine's number one military donor.

But not all the weaponry for the Armed Forces of Ukraine has reached Ukraine.

The thing is that assistance is provided in two ways: direct supply of existing weapons and manufacturing new weapons for Ukraine.

The first approach is supplying existing weapons.

Since 24 February 2022, President Joe Biden's administration has sent weapons worth $20 billion to Ukraine. $1.6 billion burned because they were not used in the 2022 fiscal year. About $4 billion remain unused.

The second approach is manufacturing and purchasing new, as well as repairing and maintaining old weapons for Ukraine in the United States.

In 2022, Congress allocated about $19 billion for this under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). $12 billion has been spent: the US Department of Defense has contracted manufacturers for this amount to produce weapons for Ukraine. It is also known that $6.6 billion has not even been contracted yet.

Finally, Ukraine has access to the Foreign Military Financing programme – grant aid for purchasing old American weapons or ammunition. It allows Kyiv to choose which weapons to procure. The programme though has a very limited budget ($1.6 billion for Ukraine), and almost all the funds have been exhausted.

To sum up, the administration still has the authority to provide Ukraine with $4 billion in weapons, but allegedly, the Pentagon has run out of real funds to procure weapons for replacement.

However, the White House and the Pentagon should show their political will to meet the urgent needs of the Ukrainian army. Because $4 billion for Ukraine is only 0.5% of the annual Pentagon budget. So they are hardly critical to US national security.

Moreover, there is a mechanism (Excess Defense Articles, EDA programme) through which the Pentagon can transfer military property no longer needed by the American army to allied and friendly countries.

For Ukraine, such a mechanism of transferring weapons could be a lifesaver. However, using the EDA programme for Ukraine has its drawbacks.

Another option is to use the assets of the Russian Central Bank, frozen in the EU and the United States in the first weeks of the full-scale invasion.

The United States can already help use some of the frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine, encouraging European partners to be more decisive in this direction.

So even without the adoption of a new US financial package, there are three alternative options in the short and medium term to back Ukraine bypassing Congress.

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