By Anthony Bell
On May 9, 2022, President of the United States (POTUS) Joseph Biden signed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 (S.3522). The activation of this law has become a new and very important step towards the extension of the Western military aid to Ukraine.
The aforementioned act was introduced to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) in January. In April, both the US House of Representatives and U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bill.
It is noteworthy that the initiative to adopt the law was announced in January – more than a month before the launch of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. Therefore, one may suggest that this law was intentionally drafted to support Ukraine’s operations against the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People’s Republic.
The S.3522 bill covers the potential deliveries of materiel and military hardware to both Ukraine and “governments of Eastern European countries impacted by the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine to help bolster those countries’ defense capabilities and protect their civilian populations from potential invasion or ongoing aggression”. It covers both 2023 and 2024 financial years (to October 1, 2024) and can be prolonged.
The law provides the presidential administration with the capability to lease materiel to Ukraine and Easter European countries, setting aside the requirements of the Foreign Assistance Act (1961) and the Arms Export Control Act (updated in December 2021), such as five-year rent terms or reimbursement processes.
The document stipulates neither types nor articles of armaments to be transferred to the Ukrainian side. Therefore, Kyiv may receive weapon systems of any type.
The new act provides POTUS with increased powers to sign defense hardware lend-or-lease acts with the Ukrainian or Eastern European governments. However, any loan or lease of defense articles to Ukraine shall be subject to the U.S. laws concerning the return of and repayment for defense articles loaned or leased to foreign governments.
The S.3522 act was augmented by a presidential administration’s budget request for sending a $33 billion financial package (including $20 billion of direct military assistance) to Ukraine in order “to establish an interrupted torrent of arms and munitions”. In their turn, the representatives of the US Democratic party supported the increase of the request to $39.8 billion.
The financial program adopted by the US Congress brings under umbrella three financial packages:
$23 billion for security and military assistance to Ukraine and European countries; $9 billion for additional economic and technical support; and
$6.58 billion for global food security and additional global support.
It should be mentioned that more than half of the U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine will be spent on military issues, not humanitarian assistance. The lend-lease for Ukraine program is primarily aimed at the deliveries of defense hardware; it only partially covers humanitarian relief and state budget financing. It will not be a universal remedy – financial assistance in such a way will only fuel the conflict and drag it.
According to the defense experts, the following weapon systems might be delivered to Ukraine:
M1A2 main battle tank and its modifications; M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and M3A3 Bradley armored reconnaissance vehicles; M109A6 Paladin or M109A7 PIM (Paladin Integrated Management) self-propelled howitzers;
M142 HIMARS wheeled multiple rocket launch (MRL) systems or M270 MRL systems; NASAMS air defense weapons;MIM-104 Patriot air defense systems;
F-16C/D multirole combat aircraft.
However, there is a possibility that Ukraine might receive other modern weapons. The S.3522 allows the acting presidential administration to supply Kyiv with the latest offensive armaments.
Pieces of materiel (including fuels and food) will be transferred from US military bases in Europe. Washington will also procure hardware for Ukraine in third countries, if required.
It comes to the financial side of the issue, it should be mentioned that Ukraine will pay only for the systems that will survive the conflict and stay in Ukraine; the platforms destroyed in action (as well as humanitarian assistance) require no reimbursement.
It should be mentioned that Washington prepares a judicial ground for handing over of Russia’s assets illegally arrested in the United States and the countries of Western Europe to Ukraine. If these assets are confiscated and handed over to Kyiv, the lend-lease procedures will be financed with the use of these assets. If not, the remaining vehicles will be acquired through an intergovernmental credit agreement. It means that the Ukrainian taxpayers will pay for the aforementioned weapons for a long period of time.
At the same time, Washington has yet to define the authorities of POTUS under the arms leading program. The lend-and-lease procedures have been put on indefinite hold, and Kyiv will continue receiving weapons under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) program and the president’s power to hand over government-issued materiel under the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA).
On October 4, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura K. Cooper confirmed the leading role of the PDA in US military assistance to Ukraine. “We appreciate Congress’s support for Ukraine with the Lend-Lease legislation. However, right now, we’re really focused on presidential drawdown and using that as our primary authority for being able to provide equipment directly from U.S. military stocks, because unlike Lend-Lease, it doesn’t have any provisions that would require, you know, reimbursement for say, damaged equipment and that sort of thing. So, we’re sticking with PDA for now,” she said.
According to National Security Council’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, the final decision on the lend-lease program has yet to be taken. Some defense experts suggest that it is not for the authorities of POTUS: Washington might recognize zero prospects of transferring weapons to Ukraine in large quantities. Therefore, Washington constantly delays deliveries, explaining it for different reasons.
The author is an independent military analyst.
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