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On June 13th, 2023, the US Department of Defence (DOD) announced that it would provide Ukraine with an additional military aid package of $325 million. This came just a few days after the DOD had announced a similar defence package for Ukraine worth $2.1 billion. Since the Russian invasion, these latest defence deals put total US military spending towards Ukraine to $34 billion.

The military aid that Ukraine has received from the US, and other NATO states, since February 24th, 2022 is largely how it’s been able to defend itself against the vastly superior Russian military and keep Russian forces at bay for over a year. The timing of the latest US-Ukraine military deals is interesting, as they coincide with Ukraine launching its counter-offensive against Russia.

In order to understand exactly how crucial US military aid has been for Ukraine’s defensive and offensive operations against Russia, we must first analyse both the nature of the US military aid and how Ukraine has utilised that aid.

Details of latest defence deals

The $325 million package includes funding for:

  • Missiles for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAM)
  • Missiles for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)
  • Stinger anti-aircraft systems
  • Javelin anti-armour systems
  • Bradley and Stryker armoured fighting vehicles
  • 22 million rounds of small arms ammunition

The $2.1 billion deal, one of the largest since February 2022, includes funding for:

  • Additional munitions for Patriot air defence systems
  • HAWK air defence systems and missiles
  • Additional artillery rounds
  • Puma surveillance drones
  • Munitions for laser-guided rocket systems
  • Training, maintenance etc.

Interestingly, both deals are taking place via different authorities. The $325 million deal was authorized through the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which draws directly from US stocks and can be delivered immediately. However, the $2.1 billion deal was authorized through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), through which the US procures capabilities from its industry and partners. The USAI aims to support the Ukrainian military in the coming months and years.

Both deals are significant in their own right. The $325 million package shows direct US support for Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russia. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the latest assistance round “includes key capabilities to aid Ukraine’s efforts to retake its sovereign territory”. On the other hand, the $2.1 billion package indicates that the US likely does not see an end to the Russia-Ukraine war any time soon. The DOD announcement of the $2.1 billion deal emphasized on the fact that the defence deal was aimed at providing “longer-term security assistance” to Ukraine.

US military aid to Ukraine

The latest defence deals are simply a continuation of the growing trend of US military assistance to Ukraine. Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the US has been the largest supplier of military assistance to Ukraine. After the latest deals, US military aid to Ukraine has now reached $34 billion (this figure took into account the $6.2 billion revision by the US Pentagon), which far outweighs what any other state has donated.

US security assistance to Ukraine has increased drastically since the Russian invasion. From 2003-2013, US military aid to Ukraine totalled $504 million, of which $304 million was intended to secure Ukraine’s nuclear stockpile rather than to enhance its defence capabilities. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, US military aid grew substantially year-by-year, going from $49.8 million in 2013 to $412 million in 2020. The nature of the military assistance also evolved and began to focus more on improving the Ukrainian military, both technologically and tactically. Following the events of February 24, 2022, military aid has grown at an exponential rate.

An important question arises, however, of exactly how long the US will be able to keep up its military assistance to Ukraine. The amount approved by the US Congress, of $48.9 billion, is expected to run out by September 2023. Whether another disbursement of military aid is approved beyond then remains to be seen. Although there has been some internal dissent within the US Congress against sending additional military aid to Ukraine, the current trend will likely continue. This is because Ukraine is acting as a proxy state for the US against Russia in the grander scheme of things.

Failure for Ukraine would subsequently mean failure for the US, and perhaps another indication that the once mighty American ‘empire’ has passed its peak. Given the US embarrassment in Afghanistan and the growing global assertiveness of China, the US cannot afford to lose to Russia in Ukraine. For these reasons, US military aid to Ukraine will likely continue along the same trajectory for the foreseeable future. The ultimate goal of US security assistance to Ukraine is to prevent Russian victory without directly being involved in the fighting.

How Ukraine has utilised US military aid

US military aid to Ukraine has been crucial in its defence against Russia. Of particular importance has been the air defence systems that Ukraine has acquired from the US. These systems have largely stopped the constant barrage of Russian drone and missile strikes aimed at Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure. However, the long-term sustainability of these systems remains to be seen. For example, the Patriot air defence system costs approximately $4 million per missile, and each launcher costs about $10 million. Given the cost of maintaining these air defence systems and the frequency of Russian missile and drones strikes against Ukraine, Ukraine’s over-reliance on US military systems could hurt its defence if US funds were to run out.

Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russia has also relied heavily on the tanks and armoured vehicles supplied by the US. The Stryker, Bradley, Abrams tanks and other vehicles have given Ukraine a much faster and more advanced option than they previously had. The HIMARS systems have also allowed Ukraine to carry out precision strikes against Russian targets and conduct their counter-offensive operations more effectively. Several other US-supplied military systems and weapons, such as anti-tank weapons, artillery weapons and drones, have also been crucial for Ukraine.

With US military aid to Ukraine crossing $34 billion over 15 months since the start of the Russian invasion, a clear pattern has emerged in the Russia-Ukraine war. With US military aid unlikely to stop, Russia unwilling to give up its objectives, and Ukraine beginning its counter-offensive against Russia, the war will likely continue in the same manner for the foreseeable future; that of a protracted conflict. However, the importance of US security assistance for Ukraine is clear; it is crucial for its defensive and offensive operations against Russia, and Ukraine cannot continue without it.

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Shayan Hassan Jamy

Research Officer, SVI

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