US could suspend weapons shipments to Ukraine
The flow of US weapons to Ukraine might be cut off, at least temporarily, unless Congress quickly approves nearly $40 billion in new spending to help Kiev repel Russia’s offensive in the former Soviet republic, the Pentagon has warned.
“May 19 is the day we really, without additional authorities, we begin to not have the ability to send new stuff in . . .,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday. “By the 19th of May, it’ll start impacting our ability to provide aid uninterrupted.”
Weapons shipments to Kiev wouldn’t immediately stop on May 20 without new funding because there would still be some supplies in the pipeline purchased under the approximately $100 million in spending authority that the Pentagon currently has remaining for Ukraine aid, Kirby said. However, he added, but by losing its ability to source new cargoes, the Pentagon would face “a period of time with nothing moving” if there’s an extended delay in the new funding approval.
“We’ve been moving at a fairly fast clip here, both in terms of the individual packages that have been approved and how fast that stuff is getting into Ukrainian hands,” Kirby said. “Literally, every day, there are things going in, and we would like to continue to be able to continue that pace for as long as we can.”
Washington’s latest Ukraine aid package, valued at $39.8 billion, was overwhelmingly approved by the House on Tuesday night, but the Senate failed in an effort to fast-track the bill for approval on Thursday. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) objected to unanimous consent – a provision that allows for bills with strong bipartisan support to go to a quick vote without debate – after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) refused to add language to the aid legislation requiring that an inspector general be appointed to oversee how the money is spent.
Schumer excoriated Paul for standing in the way of quickly approving the massive aid package and argued that Washington has a “moral obligation” to help Ukraine fight Russian forces. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) also pressed for an immediate vote on the bill, but Paul’s objection meant that passage would be delayed to next week at the earliest.
Paul argued that Americans are already “feeling the pain” of an inflation crisis, which he said was driven by excessive deficit spending, “and Congress seems intent on only adding to that pain by shoving more money out the door as fast as they can.” He added, “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy.”
Kirby reiterated a Pentagon request to provide new Ukraine funding by the third week of May. “Obviously, we continue to urge the Senate to act as quickly as possible so that we don’t get to the end of May and not have any additional authorities to draw upon.”
Although the aid bill passed the House with support from all Democrats and all but 57 Republicans, the vote revealed increasing division over the issue on the GOP side of the aisle. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) praised the bill as a way to fund a proxy war against Russia, “investing in the destruction of our adversary’s military without losing a single American troop.”
Critics, including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), countered that anti-Russia sanctions are only exacerbating a US inflation crisis, and prioritizing aid to Ukraine is distracting from more important domestic issues. “While you spend $40 billion for your proxy war against Russia, I’m focused on baby formula for American babies,” she told Crenshaw.
Paul noted that the latest spending package will bring total US aid to Ukraine to $60 billion since the conflict began in February, nearly as much as Russia earmarks annually for its entire defense budget.