Pentagon has no more money for Ukraine as it hosts a meeting of 50 allies on support for Kyiv

Pentagon has no more money for Ukraine as it hosts a meeting of 50 allies on support for Kyiv © Provided by The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is out of money for Ukraine, unable to send the ammunition and missiles that the government in Kyiv needs to fend off Russia’s invasion.

With the aid caught up in domestic politics, the Biden administration on Tuesday came empty-handed for the first time as host of the monthly meeting of about 50 nations that coordinate support for Ukraine. The group was established by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in April 2022.

While waiting for Congress to approve more money for Ukraine’s fight, Washington will look to allies to keep bridging the gap.

“I urge this group to dig deep to provide Ukraine with more lifesaving ground-based air defense systems and interceptors,” Austin said in opening remarks broadcast from his home, where he is recuperating after prostate cancer surgery.

The opening statement by video was the first public appearance from Austin, 70, who appeared slightly gaunt. He was hospitalized for two weeks after complications from the surgery.

After the meeting, Celeste Wallander, assistant defense secretary for international affairs, told reporters that Ukraine’s ministry of defense is getting reports from its front lines that “units are not do not have the stocks and the stores of ammunition that they require.”

Wallander added, “That is one of the reasons we have been focusing on the need to answer Congress’ questions, so that they are able to move forward on a decision to pass” legislation with the aid.

While Ukraine waits to see what Congress will do, European allies are moving ahead with new measures to support Ukraine.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced a $1.2 billion joint contract to buy more than 222,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition. The rounds are some of the most heavily used munitions in the war, and the contract will be used to backfill allies that have pushed their own reserves to Kyiv.

While the conflict between Israel and Hamas has dominated headlines since October, Russia’s onslaught against Ukraine has continued.

Russia on Tuesday launched a barrage of more than 40 ballistic, cruise, anti-aircraft and guided missiles into Ukraine’s two biggest cities, damaging apartment buildings and killing at least five people. The assault came a day after Moscow shunned any deal backed by Kyiv and its Western allies to end the almost two-year war.

Ukraine’s air defenses were able to intercept at least 21 of the missiles. But the attacks injured at least 20 people in four districts of Kyiv, the capital.

The Pentagon announced its last security assistance for Ukraine on Dec. 27, a $250 million package that included 155 mm rounds, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other high-demand items drawn from existing U.S. stockpiles.

The U.S. has not been able to provide additional munitions since then because the money for replenishing those stockpiles has run out and Congress has yet to approve more funds.

More than $110 billion in aid for both Ukraine and Israel is stalled over disagreements between Congress and the White House over other policy priorities, including additional security for the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senators are trying for a bipartisan deal that would include nearly $61 billion in aid for Ukraine and make changes in border policy. But Republicans are renewing a push to scale back the amount of assistance for Ukraine, targeting money that would go to Ukraine’s civil sector and arguing that European nations could step in to fund those needs.

“Personally speaking, I’d like to see portions pared down,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican senator, told reporters Tuesday. “I think the number is really high and there are a lot of things funded in there.”

But even if a deal can be reached in the Senate, the package faces even more opposition in the House, where many Republicans have voted repeatedly against the Ukrainian war effort.

The U.S. has provided Ukraine more than $44.2 billion in security assistance since Russia invaded in February 2022. About $23.6 billion of that was pulled from existing military stockpiles and almost $19 billion was sent in the form of longer-term military contracts, for items that will take months to procure. So even though funds have run out, some previously purchased weapons will continue to flow in. An additional $1.7 billion has been provided by the U.S. State Department in the form of foreign military financing.

The U.S. and approximately 30 international partners are also continuing to train Ukrainian forces, and to date have trained a total of 118,000 Ukrainians at locations around the world, said Col. Marty O’Donnell, spokesman for U.S. Army Europe and Africa.

The United States has trained approximately 18,000 of those fighters, including approximately 16,300 soldiers in Germany. About 1,500 additional fighters are currently going through training.

Associated Press writer Stephen Groves contributed to this report.

Source: Tara Copp And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press