Troubling Questions About How Many of Our Weapons Are Going to Ukraine and If They're Getting to Frontlines

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Congress passed a bill back in March allocating $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine. Then, on April 28, Joe Biden asked for $33 billion more. Also on April 28, the Senate passed Lend-Lease legislation regarding weapons for Ukraine — which means that Biden can send them virtually anything except nuclear weapons without having to come back to the Congress for approval. Virtually all the Congressional Republicans went along with that, except for ten of them. Why would you give Joe Biden more power when he’s already shown how horrible he is at everything?

I had some questions at the time. Where does that leave us with our supplies if Biden has the authority to give them weapons from our stocks? And how are we ensuring the aid is getting where it’s supposed to be going?

Now, some U.S. officials are expressing concern about our stockpiles being depleted, with us giving away so many weapons.

From Washington Post:

Biden has requested an additional $33 billion in Ukraine aid, nearly two-thirds of which would be dedicated to security spending. Kirby has said that package should carry Ukraine through another five months of fighting. Congress has not yet approved the funding, and there are concerns about how quickly defense contractors would be able to meet the government’s demands to replenish U.S. stockpiles to ship Ukraine what it needs.

“This is pretty unprecedented, the amount of munitions that are being used right now,” the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, Bill LaPlante, told reporters Friday.

So where does that leave us if we are suddenly attacked? And what if China takes this particular opportunity, knowing we are funneling a ton of weapons to Ukraine, to invade Taiwan? Now, I don’t think they’re going to in the face of things not going well for Russia after invading Ukraine. But we need to account for any eventuality. They may decide that now is the time while we are so committed elsewhere.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tried to assuage the concerns of Senators.

Austin did not expand on what those minimum levels are, but Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., noted the U.S. has sent roughly 5,000 Javelins and 1,400 Stingers to Ukraine, comprising 33% and 25% of their respective stockpiles. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., described the state of the missile inventory as “very thin.”

Blunt and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said they were concerned that supply chain issues and cold production lines could limit the pace of replenishment. They pressed Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on how quickly the weapons could be restocked.

Austin told senators that “it was not only possible” to replace some of the stockpiles within a year, but “we will do that.” [….]

Defense industry experts told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month that pandemic-related issues with hiring and supply chains as well as the long-term neglect of production capacity could delay replenishment of some weaponry by up to five years.

And if bad actors are listening and act within that one year or five years? This process seems an incredibly bad idea.

If you drill down into the $33 billion Biden is asking for, Austin reveals that part of that money is not only going to Ukraine and to help pay to replace our stockpiles, but also to pay to replace the weapons that other countries are giving Ukraine.

Funding the restocking effort will require the passage of the $33 billion supplemental Ukraine aid package that the White House sent Congress last week, he said. About $16 billion of the requested funding would go to the Defense Department, including $6 billion to procure additional weapons and systems for Ukraine and another $5 billion for drawing more weapons from U.S. inventories.

“This will help us to not only replenish our stockpiles but also replace some of the capability we’ve asked our partners and allies to provide,” Austin said.

So we’re not only depleting our stockpiles, we’re paying to build up the stockpiles of other countries.

Then the other question was how do we know that the weapons are getting where they’re supposed to be going? Wasn’t this the country that Joe Biden accused of having a lot of corruption when he was talking about why he threatened the prosecutor? Javelins and Stinger missiles are easily transportable — how do we make sure they aren’t being laundered out the back door for other purposes?

Several senators called for the Pentagon to be more transparent and watchful as it steps up its weapons deliveries to ensure that equipment is moving to Ukraine’s front lines. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she repeatedly heard from those involved in logistics that diversion and hoarding issues have kept weapons, ammunition and armor from reaching some front-line units.

“Are we making sure that none of these weapons are falling into the wrong hands? Is there any way to even do that?” Tester asked.

You’re going to love Austin’s response to that question. He said, “It was difficult to track weapons once they were moved into Ukraine.”

“We have to depend on the Ukrainians at this point to do the right thing and make sure that they are prudent and careful about how they issue these weapons out and account for these weapons,” he said.

Oh, that’s so reassuring. Seriously? We’re giving them our weapons but not checking where they’re going? And we just gave Joe Biden the imprimatur to give them anything out of our stockpiles? Republicans, are you paying attention to what you are doing here? What are you thinking?