U.S. intelligence officials and leaders from other nations agree that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has entered a drawn-out stage, with no end in sight. And while Biden administration officials continue to support sending more aid to Ukraine, as each successive round of U.S. aid to Ukraine is announced, senior U.S. officials and lawmakers are starting to get on edge about just how much and how long the United States is going to keep footing the bill for Ukraine.
The Biden administration is trying to get allies to step up their aid to Ukraine, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Carpenter, told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview.
“There is concern as well, and there should be, rightfully so, about burden-sharing. And we certainly are trying very hard to get our allies and partners to step up,” Carpenter told The Daily Beast. “Some of the countries that maybe haven't provided as much militarily, we will certainly look to them to also provide reconstruction assistance and macro financial assistance, and other forms of support.”
The United States has contributed the most by far to help Ukraine defend itself since the beginning of the year, according to a Kiel Institute for the World Economy analysis. But as reality settles in for policymakers and lawmakers that this war is not going away anytime soon, a sense of unease at just how much the United States is bankrolling the aid is emerging.
In the coming weeks, European countries need to do far more to contribute to aid to Ukraine, especially given that this is their continent and they will be next if Ukraine doesn’t hold, warned Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
“The Europeans need to realize that this is their backyard and they need to step up,” Cornyn said during his visit to NATO this week, according to Politico. “And they can’t just continue to depend on Uncle Sam to keep writing the checks.”
The future of democracy hangs in the balance, and everyone should be pitching in to help Ukraine, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, told The Daily Beast.
“We know how precarious the situation is on the ground, and the U.S. and our allies should continue to do everything we can to ensure the Ukrainians have what they need to save lives and defend themselves from Russia’s invasion,” said Shaheen, who is currently leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to the NATO summit. “Putin’s deadly war in Ukraine isn’t just about Ukraine or even just Europe—it’s about the fate of democracies around the world in the battle against authoritarianism. It’s imperative that we listen to the aid requests made by our Ukrainian partners and ensure that assistance is swiftly delivered to save Ukrainian lives.”
Concerns have been bubbling up for months about whether the United States can adequately support Ukraine’s military defenses while also maintaining sufficient stockpiles back home were other conflicts to break out—say with China, North Korea, or Iran—which the Biden administration might need to address.
The United States has already committed to Ukraine about one-third of its stockpile of Javelins, about 6,500, and over 1,400 of the country’s Stinger missiles. Congress passed a package worth $8.7 billion to try to backfill the losses already, but more may be required.
Concerns have begun to swirl in the defense industrial base about stockpiles, too. Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes informed investors in their most recent quarterly call that his company was facing a “very limited stock of material for stinger production” and that production might not be able to ramp up until 2023 or 2024.
Some of the numbers are likely starting to worry the services, according to Mark Cancian, the former chief of the Force Structure and Investment Division at the Office of Management and Budget, where he worked on Pentagon budget strategy and war funding.
“We’ve probably sent about as much as we’re comfortable sending at this point,”
Cancian told The Daily Beast. “The constraint is the U.S. war plans have certain requirements for munitions and my understanding is we’re bumping into those limits on javelins and stingers.”
But the Biden administration has not let up on providing more aid to Ukraine. The White House made announcements twice in just the last week that the Department of Defense would be sending additional installments of aid over to Ukraine. Last week, the administration announced $450 million in aid, including multiple launch rocket systems and artillery ammunition. On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced the United States would be sending $800 million of additional weapons aid to Ukraine. The second package will include air defense systems and artillery support.
But even Biden’s words on the matter this week have appeared to soften. While in previous weeks he has said that Russia will “never” have a victory in Ukraine and that the U.S. will not stop helping Ukraine until Ukraine wins, this week his tone hedges his bets a bit more and leans on NATO.
“We are going to stick with Ukraine—and all of the Alliance is going to stick with Ukraine—as long as it takes to, in fact, make sure that they are not defeated… in Ukraine by Russia,” Biden said.
While the back-and-forth over who is paying for what grows, Ukrainian forces need reinforcements now. Ukrainian Brigadier General Volodymyr Karpenko estimated earlier this month that some Ukrainian Armed Forces units had suffered losses impacting their equipment for approximately 50 percent of their gear. And as of this week, Ukraine needs assistance with tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery systems, according to a Wednesday assessment from the Congressional Research Service.
And they can’t do it alone.
“The Ukrainian defense industry is likely unable to produce complex systems in sufficient quantities for its current combat needs,” the report notes.
The war, in the meantime, is set to drag on, as Russian and Ukrainian forces continue to battle over cities in eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian forces retreated from the contested Snake Island, or Zmiinyi Island, Thursday, unconvincingly claiming it was a gesture of “goodwill” to show they’re not actually trying to get in the way of food exports. But the brutality of Putin’s army has continued: Russian forces have been firing missiles against civilian targets, hitting Kyiv last weekend and a shopping center Monday, causing multiple casualties.
And gestures of “goodwill” mean zilch when Russian forces look prepared to dig in and keep trying to batter Ukrainians until they break. Ambassador Carpenter shared with The Daily Beast that the current U.S. assessment is that Putin still has plans to take all of Ukraine.
Putin is showing no signs of interest in negotiating or backing down, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said this week at an Atlantic Council event on the sidelines of NATO.
“We have not seen any interest on the part of Vladimir Putin in engaging in any kind of meaningful diplomatic initiative,” Blinken said.
Although they’ve been resisting Russian advances for months, Ukrainian forces are suffering significant personnel and equipment losses, in a possible indication that the balance of assistance headed Ukraine’s way could be crucial to the future of Ukraine’s ability to continue resisting Russians more than ever.
“The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) continue to face disadvantages in seeking to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity against Russian military forces,” the Congressional Research Service warned this week. “On the one hand, since Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the UAF has successfully defended against, and in some areas pushed back, Russian forces. On the other hand, this resistance has come with losses in personnel and equipment, and the overall outlook for the war remains uncertain.”
Some lawmakers believe that more burden-sharing can start to kick into gear now that Finland and Sweden are joining NATO. Their accession might help alleviate some pressures on the United States to foot the bill for Ukraine, according to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) following a visit to Sweden and Finland last month.
“Both nations’ robust commitments to defense funding mean that their accession would directly address longstanding concerns about burden-sharing and the financial contributions of our allies,” McConnell said following the trip alongside Senators Cornyn, Collins (R-), and Barrasso (R-). “Sweden and Finland already have long track records as two of the United States’ and NATO’s most capable friends and partners, even from outside the alliance.”
The group of senators pointed to Finland and Sweden’s defense-industrial bases, and their well-equipped armed forces as reasons to believe that burden-sharing will now pick up.
But so far, the two countries’ contributions to Ukraine aid since the beginning of the war have been dismal compared to the United States’—much like most of Western Europe—according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
To give Ukraine a fighting chance, many believe, that must change.