U.S. Aid to Ukraine, Explained

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When asked whether Republicans would “make it more difficult” for Congress to approve Ukrainian aid, Rep. Mike Turner criticized the $40 billion package enacted in May, saying: “We don’t need to pass $40 billion large Democrat bills … to send $8 billion to Ukraine.” Much more than that, however, was allocated for military support.

The aid legislation, which passed with broad bipartisan approval, included about $19 billion for military support, though not all of that will be transferred to Ukraine. For instance, a chunk of it is allocated for replenishing U.S. stocks of weapons that have gone or will go to Ukraine to assist the country in its defense against Russia.

The rest of the $40 billion included humanitarian and economic aid, among other measures. We’ll break down how the funding was allocated.

Turner, who is the ranking GOP member of the House intelligence committee, made his remarks on ABC’s “This Week” on Nov. 27. He went on to say, “What we’re going to do — and it’s been very frustrating, obviously, even to the Ukrainians where they hear these large numbers in the United States as a result of the, you know, burgeoned Democrat bills and the little amount of aid that they receive. We’re going to make certain they get what they need.”

His office told us he was talking about the direct, lethal aid going to Ukraine, and the $8 billion he cited was an example of how there is “confusion” over the funding. We asked what specifically the $8 billion referred to, but we didn’t get an answer to that.

He was “not objecting to other funding in the bill,” Turner’s office said, noting that the lawmaker had voted for it.

So did most Congress members in his party, but 57 Republicans voted no in the House and 11 Senate Republicans dissented. Their objections included that the bill was too large and that some of the money was better spent on domestic issues. The White House in November asked Congress to approve another $37.7 billion for Ukrainian aid this month, setting up a situation for potential friction over U.S. support for Ukraine.

In January, Republicans will control the House, and Kevin McCarthy, the House GOP leader, has said there won’t be a “blank check to Ukraine.”

On “This Week,” GOP Rep. Michael McCaul echoed that sentiment, saying that lawmakers had little time to review the $40 billion package and that “we are going to provide more oversight, transparency and accountability.”

What’s in the $40 Billion Aid Package?

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Congress has approved a total of $66 billion in aid to support Ukraine. That includes the $40 billion supplemental appropriations legislation passed in May — the only standalone aid bill — and $13.6 billion passed as part of a much larger omnibus appropriations bill in March and $12.35 billion in a continuing resolution bill enacted in September to fund the government through Dec. 16.

As we said, that $40 billion package included $19 billion in military funding for Ukraine, though not all of that goes directly to the country. Mark F. Cancian, a retired Marine colonel and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told us that figure is “a fair number” for the amount of military aid to Ukraine in the legislation.

It includes $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a Defense Department fund that pays for training, weapons and other military assistance; $9 billion to replenish U.S. weapons sent to Ukraine; and $4 billion for the Foreign Military Financing Program, a program of the State and Defense Departments that enables Ukraine (and other approved countries) to purchase new military equipment from the U.S.

We relied on Cancian’s breakdown as well as the House Committee on Appropriations’ summary and the full text of the legislation for these figures.

Another $3.9 billion was allocated for U.S. troops deployed to Europe as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “These forces were sent to reassure eastern NATO allies that the United States stood with them in a crisis and to discourage any Russian adventurism against Eastern Europe,” Cancian wrote in a May commentary piece on CSIS’ website a few days after President Joe Biden signed the bill into law.

Other military or defense spending that doesn’t go to Ukraine but is arguably related to the conflict includes $500 million to U.S. allies. “Money in this package likely reimburses allies and partners for equipment that they have sent to Ukraine,” Cancian wrote, saying that under this “win-win-win” arrangement, Eastern European allies give Ukraine old equipment and then can buy newer equipment. “The U.S. defense industry can sell more products.”

The Defense Department also got $500 million to procure “critical munitions” to increase its stocks, the House committee summary says; $600 million “to mitigate industrial base constraints for faster missile production and expanded domestic capacity of strategic and critical minerals”; and $364 million for research and development “to respond to the situation in Ukraine and for related expenses,” the legislation said. Cancian told us that these items are “not necessarily bad ideas, but in my opinion they should’ve gone through the regular appropriations process,” since they’re “not immediate needs for Ukraine” and the spending won’t happen for a long time.

He wrote in his commentary that supplemental appropriations are for emergency situations, but they often “become ‘Christmas trees’ onto which advocates can hang initiatives that did not get funded through the regular cycle.” And some aspects of this aid legislation “have the air of ‘Christmas tree ornaments.’”

What we’ve described so far adds up to nearly $25 billion. The rest of the $40 billion package, or about $15 billion, is for humanitarian and economic aid.

That includes $8.8 billion for an Economic Support Fund for Ukraine’s government, to combat human trafficking and “to prevent and respond to global food insecurity,” the committee’s summary says. The White House says this funding also can go toward providing “food, energy, and health care services for the Ukrainian people,” countering Russian disinformation, and supporting “small- and medium- sized agrobusinesses” and natural gas purchases by Ukraine.

The humanitarian aid also includes $4.35 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development for disaster assistance, which would be, in the words of the committee summary, “emergency food assistance to people around the world suffering from hunger as a result of the conflict in Ukraine”; $900 million for Ukrainian refugees in the U.S.; $350 million for Ukrainian refugee assistance for other countries; $650 million for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and an international food security program; and hundreds of millions more for the State Department for embassy security, diplomatic support, nonproliferation programs and narcotics control/law enforcement programs for Ukraine.

The legislation included $5 million for inspectors general to provide oversight of the appropriations.

Finally, in addition to the funding, the legislation increases the president’s drawdown authority by $11 billion to provide defense equipment and services to Ukraine and allies in the region in the future. This allows the president to send equipment from existing U.S. inventories. Congress then needs to appropriate money separately to replenish the stocks.

Total Ukraine Aid

As we said, Congress has approved a total of $66 billion for aid to Ukraine this year. And it can be confusing to see that figure and yet see other announcements of much smaller totals for security assistance or equipment transfers.

For instance, the latest DOD press release, dated Nov. 23, on a drawdown of military equipment being sent to Ukraine said the U.S. “has committed more than $19.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration.” An Oct. 21 Congressional Research Service report said security assistance had totaled “about $17.6 billion” since the start of the war in Ukraine.

But as we’ve explained, the appropriations include funding for other military and humanitarian programs beyond military equipment or security assistance for Ukraine.

“Confusion sometimes arises because [of] the way the administration periodically announces aid packages,” Cancian wrote in a Nov. 18 post on the total amount of Ukraine aid. Those occasional DOD releases, however, “describe how the administration is using the money.”

Cancian wrote that altogether military aid has totaled $38.2 billion.

That includes $17 billion in short-term military aid, such as weapons and training; $10.4 billion in long-term military aid, which is “money that Ukraine can use to buy new weapons, mostly from the United States but also elsewhere,” Cancian said; $9.6 billion for U.S. military operations in the region; and $1.2 billion for general Defense Department support.

It can take a while to spend some of this money. “For the kinds of equipment being procured to support Ukraine, it takes about a year to get onto contract, then two more years before the first item is delivered and another year or more for the remaining items to be delivered,” Cancian wrote. “That means that money Congress appropriates in year one does not get fully spent until year five.”

The White House has called on Congress to pass another $37.7 billion in Ukraine aid before the Dec. 16 deadline to continue funding the government in fiscal 2023.


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