Stephen Blank

Mar 7, 2024

The Hill


When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Congress passed a new Lend-Lease Act that President Biden then signed.

Two years later, proposals to give Ukraine both the funding and new weapons it needs to defend itself against Russia’s genocidal aggression remain stalled in the House. A handful of diehard opponents said in December that if Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) brings a bill funding Ukraine to the floor, they would move to strip him of his power.

Despite the urgency of rescuing Ukraine and the vital interest of European security, we are not dealing with a profile in courage.

But the failure to provide vital logistical assistance to Ukraine is not confined to the House. I have pointed out in previous work that huge weapons stocks are still residing in our inventory. They appear to be trapped there, even though the administration seemingly has the legal power to release them under The Excess Defense Articles Act.

This legislation allows President Biden to sell or gift U.S. military equipment no longer needed by the armed forces. How he exercises this power is up to him. He can declare the material excess to requirements. The administration can also resort to legislative maneuvers such as a discharge petition allowing Republicans who support Ukraine to cooperate with Democrats to form a majority to force the bill to the floor.

But this too is not happening and no reasons are being given for this failure to act.

Under the Lend-Lease Act, the government was empowered, as in World War II, to provide large-scale material supplies to Ukraine. During World War II, lend-lease was vital to our British and Soviet allies in feeding the Red Army and providing it with mechanized transport. It also sustained the British naval and military forces in getting vital logistics to the United Kingdom.

Yet when I recently asked a high-ranking Pentagon official what the status of this act is today, he spoke in generalities.

If this is the current state of affairs in the administration, we are in more desperate straits than previously imagined. The fact is, Russia’s potentially genocidal invasion of Ukraine offered the U.S. and NATO a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a positive step forward in realizing a “Europe whole and free,” to use President George H.W. Bush’s phrase.

Timorous leadership on both sides of the Atlantic has held the U.S. and Ukraine back from taking advantage of this opportunity, allowing Russia to possess the strategic initiative and leading to proliferating accounts of despair and desperation on Ukraine flooding the media.

It is inexplicable that the Pentagon and the White House aren’t taking action to help Ukraine by using this targeted legislation. But given the nature of bureaucracy and the fact that Ukraine’s situation is already an emergency, it is unlikely the administration will discover why we are not rushing supplies to Ukrainians and strengthening NATO’s overall position on its frontiers and flanks anytime soon.

Republican inflexibility is meeting what can only be called bad practice. This situation evokes Walt Kelly’s old Pogo cartoon, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

But this is not a reason for laughter or jokes. We cannot be preoccupied with witticisms. Shakespeare’s “Henry V” observed that when war is upon us, we “should imitate the action of a tiger.” Instead, we are throwing away the greatest strategic opportunity since the end of the Cold War and regressing into what many analysts are calling a new one.

Should this level of strategic incompetence throughout the West continue, it is not only history that will not forgive us. The citizens of Ukraine and Europe who are witnessing the horror of this war will know that Western leaders’ irresolution, self-centered refusal to confront evil, weakness of heart and lack of courage betrayed them. And then what will we tell them when they are left face-to-face with a resurgent Russia?


Stephen Blank, Ph.D., is a Foreign Policy Research Institute senior fellow and independent consultant focused on the geopolitics and geostrategy of the former Soviet Union, Russia and Eurasia. He is a former professor of Russian national security studies and national security affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College and a former MacArthur fellow at the U.S. Army War College.