April 12, 2022 | Policy Brief

Senate Unanimously Approves Lend-Lease Act to Expedite Aid to Ukraine

April 12, 2022 | Policy Brief

Senate Unanimously Approves Lend-Lease Act to Expedite Aid to Ukraine

After months of delay, the Senate last Wednesday unanimously passed legislation to accelerate the delivery of defense equipment to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. However, the House has yet to vote on a similar bipartisan bill, increasing the risk that Kyiv will run low on equipment as Moscow gears up for the next phase of its offensive.

The bipartisan Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, introduced in January, authorizes the president to lend or lease defense articles to Kyiv and other Eastern European countries affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The bill would temporarily exempt such aid from various legal hurdles and limitations, including a provision of the Arms Export Control Act requiring lessees to reimburse all costs incurred by the U.S. government, and a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act requiring that loans be repaid within five years.

With these exemptions, Washington could quickly deliver equipment that Kyiv or Eastern European allies could not otherwise afford. The bill would also require the president to create “expedited procedures” for the delivery of articles loaned or leased to Ukraine. However, by waiting almost three months to pass the Lend-Lease Act, the Senate itself became a cause of delay. Meanwhile, the House has yet to pass similar bipartisan legislation introduced in early March. Both chambers left for a two-week recess on Thursday, causing a further delay.

Ukraine has no time to spare. As one senior Ukrainian officer put it, “We are calculating time not in weeks or days — but in lives.” Although Ukraine has defeated Russian forces arrayed around Kyiv, the war’s next phase will likely see high rates of attrition on both sides, stretching Ukraine’s stocks of equipment and ammunition, particularly among its mechanized forces.

The West needs to expand and systematize its ad hoc defense aid efforts to keep pace with a protracted conventional conflict. While many initially expected the war’s conventional phase to last mere days, it now appears likely to last “many months” or “even years,” as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated last Wednesday.

In addition to drones, anti-tank weapons, and MANPADS, Ukraine will need plenty of artillery, tanks, and other heavy weaponry to defeat an impending Russian offensive in the Donbas, let alone to recapture territory. Ukraine cannot currently mass-produce these systems given that Russia has destroyed much of its defense industry, and getting captured Russian equipment back onto the battlefield can take time. Some allies have begun providing such systems or plan to do so, but the volume must increase, and deliveries will have to be sustained throughout the war and perhaps beyond.

While Washington can provide some of the needed equipment, most of it will have to come from Eastern European allies that operate Soviet-made systems that Ukraine can easily integrate into its military, like the T-72 tanks recently sent by the Czech Republic. Washington should continue encouraging allies to donate Soviet-made systems to Ukraine. For example, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia all possess various types of Soviet-made artillery.

The new Lend-Lease legislation would help expedite transfers of U.S. weapons to backfill Eastern European countries sending aid to Ukraine. Congress should move urgently to support Ukraine and should consider expanding Lend-Lease exemptions to apply to countries beyond Eastern Europe that donate aid to Ukraine and need a U.S. backfill.

As Russia continues its unprovoked war against Ukraine, “this legislation to speed up the process of moving military equipment to the frontlines couldn’t be more urgent,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), one of the bill’s cosponsors. She is right. Congress should act without delay and help America once again become the “arsenal of democracy.”

Ryan Brobst is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where John Hardie is research manager and a research analyst. Both contribute to FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP). For more analysis from the authors and CMPP, please subscribe HERE. Follow FDD on Twitter at @FDD and @FDD_CMPP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.


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