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Breaking down the billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5/13/2022 Artur Galocha, Ruby Mellen

Even before the $20 billion military aid package, which passed the Senate Thursday, the United States was already the largest donor of military aid to Ukraine as it defends itself against a Russian invasion.

The latest package, part of a nearly $40 billion aid bill, goes beyond sending weapons and represents a long-term commitment to U.S. involvement in the war. The money would also go toward ramping up production of U.S. weapon stocks to replenish the significant amount of weaponry already sent to Ukraine.

© Provided by The Washington Post West sees race against time in Ukraine as Russia advances

The ramp up in military spending, as well as a recent move to send more advanced equipment, indicates a recognition that the war may drag on, experts said.

“Previously we’d been providing aid packages every week or two to stave off defeat,” said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But then the realization came that this thing could go on for quite a while.”

Cancian noted that the budget approved by the House goes through the end of the fiscal year, suggesting the expectation the war could last for at least four more months.

The numbers in perspective

Every year, the United States spends billions of dollars to fund the other militaries, including Israel and Jordan. But in three months, commitments to Ukraine have eclipsed annual U.S. military assistance to its closest partners.

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Analysts see military aid from the West as vital to the success of Ukraine against a much larger adversary.


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“If the United States and other countries had not sent lethal aid from the very beginning, Ukraine would have been overwhelmed early on, and Ukraine’s government would now be a Russian puppet,” Cancian said. “Because militaries in combat need a continuous supply of munitions and equipment to replace losses, the United States and other countries needed to continue the flow of supplies.”

The aid is equal to more than half of the Ukrainian military budget last year. By some estimates, the nearly $20 billion boost would bring the U.S. contribution to nearly a third of the annual Russian military budget, though some analysts estimate Moscow spends up to $200 billion on its military, far more than official figures.

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The evolution of the war

As the war has changed, so have the weapons provided by the United States. In the early stages, when a convoy of Russian vehicles pressed toward Kyiv, U.S. assistance included antitank weapons, most notably Javelin missiles. Those weapons lock onto a target’s thermal profile and can strike a tank head on or from top down.

What to know about the Javelin antitank missiles in Ukraine © Provided by The Washington Post

After logistical and military failures dashed Moscow’s plans to seize the Ukrainian capital, Russia shifted its focus eastward, and the United States began to send long-range artillery suited for open-terrain battles. The howitzers supplied by the United States are heavy cannons that fire artillery rounds as far as 24 miles.

Western artillery surging into Ukraine will reshape war with Russia

More could have been done faster, said Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The main evolution I’ve seen is kind of an excessive hesitancy and belatedness to assistance before the invasion to really an agility and creativity afterwards.”

Cancian noted that while early shipments of weapons included Javelins, which require at most two people to operate, newer shipments included dozens of howitzers, which demand at least five people. howitzer training for Ukrainian troops began last month.

“There was a recognition, I think, that time was available,” he said.

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As Western arms continue to flow into Ukraine, Russian ally Belarus is also ramping up its involvement in the war. The Belarusian chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Viktor Gulevich, said Tuesday the military would send special forces to its border with Ukraine because “the United States and its allies continue to increase their military presence at the state borders.”

Alex Horton and William Neff contributed to this report.

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