Finally Critical Aid to Ukraine – More to be Done

Bob McConnell
April 25, 2024

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Finally, the long-awaited supplemental has been reported by Congress, signed into law by the President and the delivery of critical weapons to Ukraine has begun.

The first tranche, valued at $1 billion, is reported to include Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 155mm artillery rounds, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Javelin anti-tank systems, Claymore anti-personnel munitions, and more.

But it must be noted that last month the Administration secretly shipped some long-range ATACMS to Ukraine that finally placed a number of Russian firing sanctuaries in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and elsewhere in range. Providing these weapons has been a priority recommendation of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) for nearly three years.  FOUN’s annual PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR U.S. ASSISTANCE TO UKRAINE have urged these long-range ATACMS, as have Foundation and FOUN webinars, op-eds, private meetings, and media interviews.

The ATACMS the Biden Administration secretly provided Ukraine have been used against a Russian military base in Crimea and against Russian forces east of Berdyansk near the Sea of Azov. Additional ATACMS are said to be in the tranche headed for Ukraine.

I also note that the legislation just passed by Congress called on the Administration to send the long-range ATACMS – finally all the necessary forces aligned to get these weapons to Ukraine.

Another priority FOUN recommendation for three years has been for the Biden Administration to commit itself to supporting a Ukrainian victory – an “Unequivocal statement of United States policy to support a Ukrainian victory and Putin’s defeat.”

The legislation, H.R. 815, just signed by the President includes Section 504 calls for the Administration to set out its strategy:

SEC. 504.

Not later than 45 days after the date of enactment of this division, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the heads of other relevant Federal agencies, as appropriate, shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services, and Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives a strategy regarding United States support for Ukraine against aggression by the Russian Federation: Provided, That such strategy shall be multi-year, establish specific and achievable objectives, define and prioritize United States national security interests, and include the metrics to be used to measure progress in achieving such objectives: Provided further, That such strategy shall include an estimate, on a fiscal year-by-fiscal year basis, of the resources required by the United States to achieve such objectives, including to help hasten Ukrainian victory against Russia’s invasion forces in a manner most favorable to United States interests and objectives, and a description of the national security implications for the United States if those objectives are not met: Provided further, That such strategy shall describe how each specific aspect of U.S. assistance, including defense articles and U.S. foreign assistance, is intended at the tactical, operational, and strategic level to help Ukraine end the conflict as a democratic, independent, and sovereign country capable of deterring and defending its territory against future aggression: Provided further, That such strategy shall include a classified independent assessment from the Commander, U.S. European Command, describing any specific defense articles and services not yet provided to Ukraine that would result in meaningful battlefield gains in alignment with the strategy: Provided further, That such strategy shall include a classified assessment from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the provision of specific defense articles and services provided to Ukraine does not pose significant risk to the defense capabilities of the United States military: Provided further, That the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment in coordination with the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation provide an assessment of the executability and a production schedule for any specific defense articles recommended by the Commander, U.S. European Command that require procurement: Provided further, That such strategy shall include information on support to the Government of the Russian Federation from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the People’s Republic of China, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, related to the Russian campaign in Ukraine, and its impact on such strategy: Provided further, That such strategy shall be updated not less than quarterly, as appropriate, until September 30, 2025, and such updates shall be submitted to such committees: Provided further, That unless otherwise specified by this section, such strategy shall be submitted in unclassified form but may include a classified annex.

We await that document (no later than June 7th).

FOUN’s 2024 PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR U.S. ASSISTANCE TO UKRAINE are now available in printed form.  Everything recommended has been subject to webinars, speeches, meetings, interviews, op-eds, and more, and the text (minus the formatting for publication) was delivered to some on Capitol Hill weeks ago.

Click here to review the recommendations

Getting H.R. 815 to the President’s desk and the assistance it will provide on the way has been a major achievement and many deserve a round of applause and letters, emails, phone calls, expressing appreciation.

BUT Putin’s war against Ukraine and the United States is not over.  This is no time to relax – much remains to be done.  The opponents of support for Ukraine have not gone away and are pledging that the appropriation just enacted will be the last.  The routinely deplorable Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) said, “If Ukraine thinks it’s getting another $60 billion supplemental out of the U.S. Congress, there is no way.”  (As usual he makes up a request not made to bolster his declaration.)

Members of Congress on both sides of the issue have consistently said they have heard very little from constituents supporting Ukraine.  That needs to change – both in letters, emails, phone calls and when Members and candidates appear throughout this Election Year.

Not only must supporting Ukraine be an issue in congressional elections, but remember Congress is now at work of its authorization and appropriation bills for fiscal year 2025.

President Biden’s fiscal year defense budget sticks to caps the limit things to a mere 1 percent increase. Senate Armed Services ranking member Roger Wicker (R-LA) has said he hopes to exceed that ceiling in the next National Defense Authorization Act, and House Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-AL) has said the same.

Chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Jon Tester (D-MT) has raised the possibility of exceeding current spending limits.

The Senate’s top Republican appropriator, Susan Collins (R-ME), also signaled openness to a boost above the proposed defense topline. She noted the budget cap “does not even begin to cover inflation, much less the growing and dangerous threats we are facing around the globe.”

The legislative process is just beginning and much will be considered but keep in mind Congress is working on 2025 now.  We will be following and wanting to make sure what is needed for Ukraine to defeat Putin is included.

AND the NATO summit in Washington this summer is of vital importance.

At last year’s Vilnius summit, the United States stood against the overwhelming majority of its fellow NATO members in refusing to issue an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance, or even to provide Ukraine a roadmap to NATO membership.

The United States must change its position and return to its position at the previous summit where Washington pushed hard to secure for Ukraine a clear commitment.

Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network

The views expressed here are Mr. McConnell’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN)