The Senate voted 86 to 11 to approve a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine on Thursday in the latest bipartisan signal of Washington’s increasing involvement in Ukraine’s scorching war against Russia.
The bill includes a massive one-time expenditure of military and security assistance, along with funding for increasing economic and humanitarian needs. This latest legislation is in addition to: the $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine that Congress approved in March, bringing total aid to Ukraine from the United States to a historic level $53 billion since the start of the war.
“Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine underscores the importance of democracies around the world sticking together to oppose authoritarians who violate international law and commit war crimes,” Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kane said. D-VA) in a statement. “Today’s vote is another strong signal that the United States is adhering to that principle, and we will continue to work to ensure that we remain a very strong ally of Ukraine.”
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill soon, as the government had previously warned that Ukraine’s funding would run out by May 19† Republican and democratic after it evicted the House last weekonly to have sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) slow down the process. But in the end Congress delivered even more aid than the $33 billion Biden had initially asked.
The large bipartisan majorities underline the consensus on supporting Ukraine’s resistance to Russia. Democrats and most Republicans have championed legislation as the US’s best tool to to defend democracy in Ukraine and beyond.
Ukraine relies on support from the US and its partners for the weapons to fight Russia and for economic aid to keep it afloat: Ukrainian officials estimate that the country is about a Shortage of $5 Billion a Month† The humanitarian situation is dire in places under Russian attack and for the millions who have fled the conflict so far. That crisis is rippling through things to the rest of the world such as raising food and fuel pricesall the problems that this aid package aims to address.
This massive influx of aid is an acknowledgment that the United States considers aid to Kiev and its partners necessary to Ukraine’s efforts against Russia and to mitigate some of the effects of the conflict around the world. What is less clear is how this legislation defines the United States’ long-term strategy in Ukraine, and whether this deeper investment is sustainable if the war continues.
How this big aid package for Ukraine came about – and what’s in it?
The Supplemental Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022, as it is officially called, reserves about $40 billion in emergency funding for military, economic and humanitarian aid to Kiev, NATO allies and partners supporting Ukraine.
The package hit a big deal in the Senate when Paul objected to the bill, citing the need for an independent inspector general to oversee funding — something Democrats and Republicans agree on in principle. But Paul wanted to write the language directly into the legislation, which would have further delayed the bill, potentially endanger the flow of aid to Ukraine†
Paul’s objections were enough to dissuade the Senate from… follow the bill quicklyand so it had to be go through all normal legislative procedures. It moved forward Monday, with Paul and 10 other Republicans voting against, criticizing its cost and the value of using US dollars to support Ukraine’s efforts. (The law does) to provide for oversight from the inspectors general at existing agencies, such as Defense and State.) On Thursday, the Senate approved the bill.
The size and scope of the bill is enormous. Most of the funding goes to military and security aid for Ukraine. It has $6 billion for the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiativewhich includes weapons, equipment and logistical support, according to a fact sheet from the House Appropriations Committee†
That money is on top $3.8 billion in weapons which the US has supplied to Ukraine since February. However, this aid package for Ukraine also puts about $9 billion into replenishing US arms stockpiles. It also allocates $3.9 billion to help European partners and troop deployment in the region.
“Basically, it indicates that Biden is all-in, focused on a strategy designed to help Ukraine ‘win’ the war,” said William Walldorf Jr., a professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at the Wake Forest University, in an email.
About $8 billion will go into the Economic Support Fund to help support the government, which needs money to do things like respond to emergencies, pay salaries and keep social services running† According to the House Appropriations Committee, a total of about $5 billion more will address global food insecurity, a growing recognition of the instability the war in Ukraine – and sanctions against Russia – caused beyond its borders.
US aid is a huge investment in Ukraine’s democracy and defense. But how far can it go?
Ukraine’s resistance — aided by tranches of weapons from the West — has thwarted Russia’s initial war goals, forcing them to refocus and focus their campaign in eastern and southern Ukraine. Russia has made real territory gainbut the advance has been incremental, especially in the east where Ukraine is also cutting off some territory.
This is a fragile status quo and will be difficult for Ukraine to sustain, even with Russia’s depleted military. That is the reason behind the urgency behind the latest aid package, as the US wants to ensure that military equipment and weapons continue to flow to Ukraine without interruption†
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has also begun to be explicit about its own objectives in this conflict: to weaken Russia and Ukrainian people in defense of their country† “Ukraine clearly believes it can win, and everyone here does,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement said last month during a meeting with his defense colleagues. “Ukraine needs our help to win today and they will still need our help when the war is over.”
But it is not clear what ‘winning’ in Ukraine actually looks like for Ukraine or for its partners in the West. Is it a Russian defeat? Will it bring Russia to the negotiating table? And it is not clear whether the goals of the US, NATO and the goals of Europe are all aligned with those of Ukraine.
This latest influx of aid shows the deep-seated US support for Ukraine, with some experts suggesting that the United States should use this aid package as leverage to try to get Russia to the negotiating table.
[we’ll] – I wouldn’t say win, but in fact force Russia to settle for a deal, which we would have thought impossible when this first started,” said Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former assistant secretary of defense.
The US infusion of cash and weapons Ukraine puts an end to any hesitation that existed at the outset of the conflict to support Ukraine for fear it could provoke Russia. So far, Putin has threatened the West and NATO, but it has not escalated beyond Ukraine. But, as experts said, there is a risk that Putin would interpret US support as such an escalation and the US should have a plan for that possibility.
“What happens if there is an escalation?” Rajan Menon, Director of the Grand Strategy Program at Defense priorities, asked. “How far are we willing to go? What are we willing to do? What are we willing not to do?”
Another question is how sustainable this level of support is, for both the US and Ukraine. In April, the Biden administration ruled that the new financing package would “enable Ukraine’s success” for the next five months – in principle until the end of September. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Sunday, after visiting Ukraine himself, that he expected the legislation to provide help for a “significant period of time†
The longer the war lasts, the more help Ukraine needs from the West and its partners. And the higher the other costs: more lives lost, more infrastructure destroyed, more companies bankrupt. Those costs will not be limited to Ukraine, as the higher costs of food and fuel are causing instability elsewhere.
The effects of food and fuel shortages will be felt most strongly in poorer countries not equipped to deal with them, but will also affect Europe and the United States, where the public may decide they have reached the magnitude of the costs they want to wear. And because US and West support is so crucial to Ukraine, both in the war and afterwards, turning the tap off would be just as crucial as turning it on.
“We’ve got so much in here now,” Korb said, “we can’t just walk away.”