The United States has announced individual aid packages as they are formulated and shipped, leading to weekly or twice-monthly announcements. This has allowed the U.S. to send whatever it is that Ukraine needs in that particular moment—heavy on anti-tank and anti-air missiles early on, sophisticated air defenses over the winter, to mostly artillery shells and rocket ammunition today.
Every once in a while, a major new weapons system makes an appearance, be it HIMARS rocket artillery, Patriot air defenses, M2 infantry fighting vehicles, or M1 Abrams tanks. Maybe F16 fighter jets will make that list someday.
Thing is, while the total amount of aid is set in advance by congressional authorization, the piecemeal announcements are becoming a political and practical problem. It’s time to promise it all, to give Ukraine the certainty it needs to plan its future operations, to shut up the pro-Putin MAGA seditionists who are trying to make Ukraine aid a political rallying cry, and to let Russia know that waiting for the 2024 presidential election isn’t a viable strategy. Donald Trump won’t bail him out.
The Freedom Caucus is making Ukraine a key tenet of their government shutdown efforts. At a Family Research Council gathering a few days ago, arch-conservative Rep. Chip Roy got the biggest applause when he said, “We cannot continue to have a blank check going to Ukraine without dealing with what we need to do here at home first.” That got a bigger audience reaction than complaints about the deficit, crying about the “woke” military, anti-immigrant nonsense, b.s. about “weaponizing” the Department of Justice against Donald Trump, and anti-vaccine rhetoric.
Reiterating: of all the current MAGA issues, including Donald Trump, anti-Ukraine sentiment got the biggest applause line.
We cannot underestimate how quickly that will spread among the GOP faithful, and it won’t be long before it’s the mainstream party position. There’s a reason the Mitt Romneys are dropping like flies from the Republican Party. The Freedom Caucus has vowed to oppose any new government funding that includes Ukraine aid.
But there’s a more pressing consideration—winning the war.
Absent a coup or unexpected death, this war won’t end until Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decides to end it. As of now, he clearly hopes to fatigue Ukraine’s allies, outlasting Western resolve. And no country is more important in that calculation than the United States.
To Putin’s clear delight, Republicans appear set on re-nominating virulent Ukraine-hating Trump. It’s easy to forget that Trump was initially impeached over his efforts to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, offering Javelin anti-tank guided missiles in exchange for a fake investigation into Hunter Biden. Trump wants the U.S. out of NATO. His re-ascension to the presidency would single-handedly pull Putin’s balls out of the fire, giving him a victory that he hasn’t earned.
As such, Putin has no incentive to end the war until after the 2024 presidential election. And trickling out aid packages further underscores the transient nature of the aid.
That’s why it’s time to go big, now, when there are still enough Republicans in the House and Senate willing to do the right thing on Ukraine. Pass the big aid package, yes, but then announce everything. Announce a delivery package so big, that Putin can’t count on Trump to bail him out. A package so big, that Putin understands the futility of his war. A package so big, that Ukraine’s Western allies are emboldened to follow suit.
So what would that look like? Congress is currently debating a $24 billion aid package. Imagine if its passage was followed by this announcement:
- 500 M1 Abrams tanks ($5 billion if new, including maintenance equipment).
- 1,000 M2 Bradleys ($5.5 billion if new, but less since they’re surplus).
- 1,000 M113 armored personnel carriers (Ancient, cost is near-zero).
- 2,000 Mine-resistant armored vehicles (US has tens of thousands in service, many older variants being phased out).
- 10,000 Humvees (US has around 160,000 of them, and plans to keep 50,000 after replacing most with the new JLTV. Surplus Hummers are cost-negligible. Send them all to Ukraine).
- 100 F16s ($6.3 billion if new. I don’t know how many surplus F16s the U.S. has, but with over 2,200 F16s in service, and the U.S. awaiting deliveries of another 1,400 latest-generation F35s, there are plenty of them available to gift to Ukraine).
Add all that up, even using new-equipment prices, and we’re still well under the $24 billion, leaving plenty for air defenses, ammunition, spare parts, and other combat support equipment and vehicles. And that doesn’t even take into consideration unspent money from the existing authorization, reportedly still in the billions (unless we see a monster announcement by the end of the month).
Furthermore, execute contracts with industry for continued deliveries of HIMARS rockets, artillery shells, anti-tank and anti-air missiles, and all the other logistical needs for Ukraine’s armed forces. Lock it all in so Trump can’t undo anything if the worst-case scenario happens.
Lock all of this in, and Putin will have a clearer picture of the gravity of his situation. Even now, Russia is barely hanging on to its ill-gotten territories. Its navy is being chased out of the Black Sea by a nation without a real navy. It is losing the artillery war. Ukraine has better drones, and it has proven the ability to strike Russian cities, including Moscow, in the inevitable winter missile war. It won’t be a one-sided affair this year.
If we signal that Ukraine will have the tools it needs to continue retaking territory, Putin’s tone might suddenly change. Make this announcement now, and pro-Putin MAGA a-holes will have less material to work with over the coming year, as they continuously seek to undermine support for Ukraine. And for Ukraine, a concrete list of incoming equipment will allow it to better plan the equipping, training, and deployment of forces in the year ahead.
Heck, we could easily double those amounts above using more realistic pricing for the surplus gear, getting Ukraine that much closer to victory (understanding it would take years to train enough crews to operate all that equipment and establish the logistical chains). But first things first. It’s time for President Joe Biden to signal that the U.S. is serious about helping Ukraine win the war, and stop with this piecemeal approach that has served no one’s interests, including Biden’s.
Biden and Zelenskyy will meet at the White House on Thursday. For some reason, news reports continue to insist that the U.S. won’t announce the possible shipment of ATACMS long-range missiles until after the visit, which seems utterly idiotic. Freakin’ announce those things already.
It’s been distressing seeing Biden go from one of the most aggressive supporters of Ukraine, early in the war last year, to one of the most timid today. “The U.S. official told Axios there is still a debate within the Biden administration about the supply of ATACMS,” reported Axios, which makes one wonder … who the heck is advising Biden against this, and why hasn’t Biden shut that down already.
The weaker Russia gets, the more Biden’s advisors urge increasing restraint, rather than push the advantage and aim for a pre-election victory (imagine the TV optics of that!). What are they so afraid of? A fragmented Russia? A desperate Putin with nothing to lose? Someone taking power that might be worse than Putin?
Meanwhile, once-timid European allies like France and Germany are now among Ukraine’s most aggressive supporters (not counting the Baltic nations and Poland, which understand Russia’s dangers more than anyone else).
It sucks when freakin’ Sen. Tom Cotton is right on an issue, and Biden is wrong.
To be clear, most Democratic senators are also aboard. We actually have mostly bipartisan agreement on Ukraine, and yet here is Biden, refusing to embrace it all.
Not sure why this is “against expectations,” but it’s natural that this rich soil (full of fish poop and, well, dead fish) would prove such fertile ground. As of now, this is terrain is reportedly bog-like, not passable by vehicles, but as vegetation takes root and the ground continues to dry out, that might change. The winter freeze certainly will open up possibilities.
The current narrative is that nothing can cross there because advancing Ukrainian troops would be too exposed. But that is predicated on Russia’s continued ability to lay down artillery. Given Ukraine’s aggressive counter-battery efforts, I wouldn’t consider that a given.
Drones, on the other hand, would be a real challenge, though that’s the case whether it happens on the outskirts of Verbove or Robotyne, or across this open space. Drones give both sides full view of their enemy’s advances. No one is getting surprised along the contact line.
So the actual question is, can Ukraine bypass some of the fortifications on the way to Tokmak and Melitopol by cutting across this new terrain using small unit tactics and crossing at night. Who the heck knows.
Speaking of drones, this is a one-day snapshot of confirmed destroyed equipment on both sides.
Almost all of that equipment has been destroyed by drones, on both sides. And it’s like that every single day.
Whoever figures out how to best disable enemy drones will have a ginormous advantage.
Also, if I’m Taiwan, I’m investing in a million drones and anti-air and anti-ship missiles. China has to be looking at this drone carnage and wondering how it would get through a Taiwanese drone and missile screen.