Though it could be said despite all the military aid, Ukraine’s military ability and capabilities have been in decline for quite some time now. Too many dead and injured fighters have contributed to, or exacerbated the inevitable decline. Too much corruption and black market weapons sales may have also contributed.
Several trends are apparent from this data:
- Deliveries surged from January 2023 to August 2023 in support of the counteroffensive.
- After November 2023, deliveries dropped precipitously and will hit bottom in early summer 2024. This bottom is about 12 percent of the counteroffensive peak.
- Deliveries will increase slightly in the late summer of 2024 as production from acquisition contracts begins to arrive.
Q6: Can other countries pick up the slack?
A6: Europeans and others have committed to providing $51 billion of military aid. If that aid has the same short-term and long-term split as U.S. aid and delivers along the same timelines, that’s about $1 billion per month. That is substantial and critical to Ukraine.
There have been calls for European nations to “step up” and close any gap created by U.S. reductions in aid. Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely. European governments face the same pressures as the United States. Critics on both the left and right argue that the money is needed at home and that this has become a “forever war” that continues at high cost and great suffering but without resolution. New European commitments have dropped precipitously. If the United States reduces its aid, European countries will probably do the same.
Q7: What will be the effect of reductions in military aid?
A7: Reductions in military aid will cause the Ukrainian military to gradually lose combat power. Already, Ukraine has lost the ability to conduct counteroffensives. By early spring, even local counterattacks will be difficult. Ukrainian cities will suffer more destruction as air defenses weaken and more Russian missiles get through. By early summer, Ukraine will be hard-pressed to hold back Russian attacks. Eventually, its front will crack, and the Russians will make major territorial gains. Complete collapse might follow.
However, Ukrainian leaders won’t wait for military catastrophe. They will understand where the war is headed and make a deal with Russia. The obvious deal is an in-place ceasefire with some provisions for continuing negotiations regarding the future status of territories and populations. A plebiscite for Crimea might be a possibility.
This would be a partial Putin victory. Putin had originally hoped to take over the entire country, but he failed. (I’ve never believed that Russia had intended to take over the entire country- That may have been the spin, but, it was not the reality) Nevertheless, he controls 17 percent of Ukraine and would claim that he defeated not just Ukraine but NATO and the world.
Despite these partial successes, Putin might not accept this deal. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, he would know that time was on his side. He might press his advantage to get more, perhaps relief from sanctions, renunciation of reparations, and amnesty for war criminals.
Q8: Can aid continue without supplemental funding from Congress?
A8: The Biden administration’s lawyers are no doubt combing through the statute books to find mechanisms by which the administration might continue supplying equipment without additional money from Congress, for example, through the Excess Defense Articles program. However, these improvisations will not produce enough equipment or money to sustain Ukraine’s war effort. The money would have to come from some agencies’ existing funds, probably DOD’s. That would mean cutting other programs and meeting resistance from Congress and the agency.
DOD still has about $4.4 billion in drawdown authority remaining after December’s $400 million aid packages, even though funds to replace these transferred items are exhausted. In theory, DOD could keep sending weapons and munitions. There is no statutory requirement to replace equipment sent to allies under this authority.
However, this creates risk in other possible conflicts since the U.S. military, particularly the Army, would be weaker because of the inventory reductions. Some would argue that the risk is worth accepting, but others would describe it as unilateral disarmament.
The US military would be weaker because of the inventory reductions and this could be considered unilateral disarmament.
If the leadership in the US, military and otherwise thought the use of nuclear weapons acceptable, could this be considered a unilateral disarmament?