Turmoil in Congress could affect the future of Ukraine's military offensive
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
U.S. money and weapons have flowed to Ukraine since last year in the tens of billions of dollars. That assistance is fast running out, and turmoil among House Republicans means an uncertain future for President Biden's request for more. NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre has been looking into how this could affect the war. Thank you for joining us, Greg.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hey. Good to be here, Ayesha.
RASCOE: So, Greg, let's start with the money. How much money has the U.S. spent on Ukraine since the full-scale Russian invasion began last year?
MYRE: It's now more than $75 billion. More than half of this is military assistance. The rest has gone for humanitarian aid and to fund the Ukrainian government so it can do things like pay government salaries. Now, this is far more money than the U.S. has given to any other country over this period. But another way to look at it is how critical this has been for Ukraine's war effort and how much damage Ukraine has inflicted on the Russian military. Here's Jason Crow, a Democratic congressman from Colorado.
JASON CROW: We have spent about 5% of our annual defense budget. And with that money, the Ukrainians have destroyed over 60% of the Russian military. Now, if that's not a good bargain for the American taxpayer, then I don't know what is.
MYRE: Also, he notes, there's not a single U.S. soldier who's actually fighting in Ukraine.
RASCOE: As of today, can the Biden administration still send assistance to Ukraine?
MYRE: Yes, it can, but it's a rapidly dwindling figure. It's about $5 billion left that's been authorized but hasn't been spent. Now, John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, was pressed on how much longer the U.S. could keep sending aid.
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JOHN KIRBY: There's about 6 to 8 more weeks of decent weather here, of good fighting weather, and we want to make sure that the Ukrainians can succeed. But absent additional funding by Congress, eventually, you run into a hard stop there.
RASCOE: So what is President Biden asking for?
MYRE: He wants another $24 billion, and a little over half of this would be for military aid. That's designed to last until the end of the year. And realistically, it shouldn't be a problem. With some recent votes in Congress, it showed that about 70% of House members and close to 80 senators still support aid to Ukraine. Yet the squabbling among House Republicans has prevented any action, and it's not clear how long it will take to get this resolved. Now, Congressman Crow is a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's wary of another open-ended conflict overseas even if it doesn't involve U.S. troops. But he thinks the battle in Ukraine is too important for the U.S. to stand on the sidelines.
CROW: Well, I can tell you, Greg, I'm war weary. You know, the last 20 years could not be classified as a success by most measures. And yet I'm a huge supporter of Ukraine.
RASCOE: What about European support for Ukraine? Like, is it doing enough? Could it do more if U.S. aid stops?
MYRE: Well, you know, Ayesha, European countries collectively have provided more overall assistance - military, economic, humanitarian - than the U.S., actually. This includes countries like Poland, which is taking in millions of Ukrainian refugees. But it's important to remember this has been a genuine multinational effort with the U.S. playing the lead role. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convenes more than 50 countries on a near-monthly basis to coordinate all this assistance for Ukraine. One country may provide tanks and other ammunition. A third may say that it has some spare fighter jets. But if U.S. assistance is interrupted, it could become harder to keep all these countries working in concert.
RASCOE: That's NPR's Greg Myre. Thank you, Greg.
MYRE: Sure thing, Ayesha.
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