By MARK TEMNYCKY
October 27, 2023
“In my state, people want to be helpful to Ukraine, but they also want to be helpful to Americans,” Republican Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) recently said in an interview with PBS. “They want to really understand how this money [to Ukraine] has been spent.” Over the last few weeks, several Republican elected officials have questioned assistance to Ukraine. More than two dozen Republican members of Congress wrote a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget, stating that the “American people deserve to know” how their money is being spent on aid to Ukraine. Nearly half of all House Republicans voted to strip defense aid to Ukraine from the recent short-term spending package. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had stated that the U.S. should not be writing a “blank check” for Ukraine, and some other Republicans said they would continue to oppose future aid to Ukraine until their questions are addressed.
Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) has expressed similar views. “American taxpayers have sent over $100 billion in aid to Ukraine,” Johnson said on X. “They deserve to know if the Ukrainian government is being entirely forthcoming and transparent about the use of this massive sum of taxpayer resources.” The statements made by this contingent of Republicans, however, do not appear to match the opinions of the American people. According to a recent Atlantic Council report, the American public’s support for Ukraine remains strong. Twenty-two months into the war, “most Americans want to continue U.S. support for Ukraine.” According to a survey conducted by the Reagan Foundation, 76 percent of Americans believe it is “important” to the U.S. that Ukraine win the war. Meanwhile, 80 percent of Americans said the U.S. should continue helping Ukraine.
In a similar survey conducted by CBS News/YouGov, 66 percent of Americans believed that the U.S. should continue sending aid and supplies to Ukraine. In still another poll by Quinnipiac, “Nearly two-thirds of voters [thought that] supporting Ukraine [was] in the national interest of the United States.” Finally, in a recent survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 63 percent of Americans supported “providing additional arms and military supplies to the Ukrainian government.” The diverse surveys conducted by these institutions suggest that the American public is very supportive of its government’s help for Ukraine. They also want the U.S. to continue sending aid.
Some lawmakers challenging U.S. aid to Ukraine seem to misconstrue its nature. For example, several Republican lawmakers have posted statements on social media inquiring where the finances come from for aid to Ukraine. Some have even stated that aid to Ukraine should be scrapped, and that the money being spent on Ukraine should instead be used to address U.S. domestic issues or the conflict in Israel. To date, the U.S. has sent over $100 billion worth of aid
to Ukraine. But for the most part, it has not been in cash, and its value is often overestimated. It has ranged from financial and humanitarian materials to medical aid and defense equipment.
So how is assistance sent to Ukraine, and where does it come from?
First, American aid to Ukraine has been heavily vetted. Throughout the war, the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General has monitored U.S. aid being sent to Ukraine. Top Pentagon and Treasury Department officials have found no evidence that suggests U.S. aid to Ukraine has been misused. Several other U.S. agencies and departments have also been involved in this auditing process, and there is no evidence that corruption is eating up any appreciable amount of the aid.
Second, the U.S. assistance does not at all come at the expense of other current U.S. programs. Aid for Ukraine, like all other budgetary items, has already been appropriated. This means that a set financial amount of aid was predetermined and agreed to by the executive branch and Congress. Appropriations can always be amended, but they cannot occur without statutory authority. For example, in fiscal 2022, Congress approved $40 billion in aid to Ukraine. The total U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2022 was $715 billion. In fiscal 2023, Congress approved $46 billion in aid to Ukraine. The total defense budget for fiscal year 2023 was $816.7 billion.
Do the math, and only 6 percent of the defense budget in fiscal 2022 and 5.6 percent in fiscal 2023 was spent on Ukraine. This money was not taken from current programs, nor did it come from cuts elsewhere.
Third, not all the money categorized as aid to Ukraine has actually gone to Ukraine. According to a Center for International and Strategic Studies report, $25.93 billion from supplemental packages has been used to replenish U.S. defense stockpiles. Defense equipment sent to Ukraine is largely cast-offs from older American stockpiles. In some cases, the military hardware in question is considered obsolete by the U.S. military. By sending Ukraine its hand-me-down defense equipment, the U.S. gains an “opportunity to procure more modern and advanced equipment.” This process is also helping the U.S. reinvigorate its defense-industrial base.
Overall, while there have been many misconceptions about U.S. aid to Ukraine, the process is relatively straightforward. American assistance to this Eastern European state is carefully vetted. Government officials have carefully ensured that funds are not being misappropriated, mismanaged, or devoured by corrupt Ukrainian officials. Funding to Ukraine has not been taken from other U.S. departments, and aid to Ukraine has not resulted in the dismantling of any American programs at home.
Finally, the provision of defense assistance to Ukraine has actually helped America rebuild its stockpiles and enhance its domestic defense production capacity. In other words, assisting Ukraine is a win-win proposition.
Not only is the U.S. helping Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s unprovoked invasion, but it is also helping improve American defense capabilities. This will only make the U.S. safer. Every American should want that.
Mark Temnycky is an accredited freelance journalist covering Eurasian affairs and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.