The Biden Administration on Thursday rolled out a $33 billion request for assistance for Ukraine, and let’s hope Congress doesn’t suddenly plead poverty. Vladimir Putin seems set on a long war, and the investment in defeating him will be cheap if it succeeds.
About $20 billion of the package is earmarked for military aid, with more for a mix of humanitarian and economic assistance, as well as sanctions enforcement. “The cost of this fight is not cheap. But caving to aggression is going to be more costly, if we allow it to happen,” said President Biden.
The request includes such crucial Ukrainian needs as “accelerated cyber capabilities and advanced air defense systems”; increased intelligence support; and more “artillery, armored vehicles, anti-armor and anti-air capabilities.” Ditto for funding for a “stronger NATO security posture” to underwrite U.S. troop deployments to deter a Putin foray into Poland or the Baltic states.
Congress can scrutinize and shape the details to ensure the Ukrainians will end up with long-range artillery, as well as training on more complex Western systems such as air defenses and unmanned vehicles. The Ukrainians also need systems that can operate together and at scale, not merely a potpourri of whatever is available in Western stocks.
A promising development on that front was this week’s meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where Western countries discussed how better to coordinate military aid for Ukraine. Germany committed heavy weaponry such as 50 Cheetah anti-aircraft tanks. A test will be whether these weapons move into Ukraine at what U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called “the speed of war.”
Another urgent priority is replenishing U.S. weapons stocks. A panel of Pentagon purchasing experts told Congress this week that the U.S. has burned one-third of its Javelin antitank supply in two months in Ukraine. Stinger anti-aircraft missiles are also dwindling. Refills will take years, owing to brittle or closed production lines, and better to get started now.
The risk, as ever, is that Mr. Biden’s Ukraine funding becomes a hostage in Congress. Mr. Biden’s Thursday letter to Congress mentions his request for $22.5 billion for more Covid-19 aid, and Democrats want to hold up Ukraine’s weapons over domestic spending. Immigration fights also threaten to derail the bill.
But voters understand these are separate matters, and lawmakers can sort out their differences accordingly. The stakes in Ukraine are enormous for U.S. security. The war is in a crucial phase, as Russia tries to expand its control in Ukraine’s east and crush the Ukrainian army. Defeating Mr. Putin’s war of conquest is still possible, and the West can make the world safer by showing that an alliance of democracies can defeat a marauding dictator.
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Congress’s Turn to Step Up on Ukraine – The Wall Street Journal