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The Military-Industrial-Complex's Big Break in Ukraine

President Joe Biden announced another nearly $3 billion in military aid for Ukraine’s fight against the Russians—the largest single military aid package for Ukraine yet.

EASTERN UKRAINE , UKRAINE - JULY 1: Kuzia, the commander of the
A Ukrainian unit commander enters a HIMARS vehicle in Eastern Ukraine on July 1, 2022. (Anastasia Vlasova for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As Ukrainians celebrated their 31st independence day Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced another almost $3 billion in military aid for the country's fight against Russia.

The $2.98 billion weapons and aid package is the single largest military-focused package announced by the Biden administration since the war broke out in late February. This latest package includes laser-guided rocket systems, six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) with additional ammunition, 24 counter-artillery radars, Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems, VAMPIRE Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems, 245,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition, 65,000 rounds of 120mm mortar ammunition, and additional funding for Ukrainian forces’ training and maintenance.

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Because other domestic issues have come to dominate the news cycle—the overturning of Roe v. Wade, inflation, the FBI’s raid against former President Donald Trump, and the impending 2022 midterm elections—the United States’ continued support for Ukraine has taken a media backseat. Though it’s perfectly understandable that issues more immediate to the homeland have taken priority over a conflict that is now entering its seventh month, the foreign policy blob that has promised to do whatever it takes to punish Ivan for encroaching upon his western neighbor welcomes these distractions. Just because the war isn’t getting the attention it received in the spring does not mean the stream of weapons and taxpayer dollars has dried up. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

The most recent package before Wednesday’s $3 billion was unveiled just last Friday. Friday’s $775 million in aid also provided Ukraine with more missiles, artillery, and armored vehicles. Nevertheless, there is a big difference in the dispensation mechanisms between the two packages. While Friday’s $775 million in military aid was drawn from pre-existing stockpiles of U.S. weaponry and equipment, much like the military aid given to Ukraine previously, Wednesday’s aid package will be purchased or ordered from defense contractors. Earlier this month, the administration also announced two other aid packages—the first totaling $550 million, the second, a billion.

John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said that this means some of the aid in Wednesday’s package could be dispensed more slowly than other parts of the package depending on defense contractors’ current stocks. “It’s going to depend, quite frankly, on the item that we’re talking about,” Kirby told reporters. “Some stuff probably will still need some production time to develop.”

Kirby also clarified in his remarks that just because the Biden administration is moving away from depleting U.S. current stockpiles does not mean the drawdown authority budget approved by Congress has been depleted.

Previously, the Biden administration has used the Presidential Drawdown Authority to bankroll a series of other aid packages, such as a $400 million package that included four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and munitions, 1,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition, demolition munitions, counter battery systems, as well as three tactical vehicles, spare parts, and other equipment. The Presidential Drawdown Authority in a given fiscal year is typically $100 million, meant to be used when unforeseen issues important to national security arise and the U.S. has to act quickly. But in the May 2022 supplemental appropriations bill to support Ukraine, Congress decided to increase that $100 million cap 110 times to $11 billion.

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Opting for an aid package that falls outside of the Presidential Drawdown Authority by going straight to contractors rather than relying on the U.S. military’s current stockpiles “will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term," Biden said.

The president’s words were a sweet sound to the military-industrial complex that profits off of the idea that the United States can rid the world of all injustice given enough bombs and bullets. Last year, defense contractors shed a tear when America’s war in Afghanistan came to a close. They collected up to half of the Pentagon’s $14 trillion in spending over the U.S. military’s two-decade venture in Afghanistan. But just after one protracted conflict came to a close, another came to the complex's rescue. Though there is little national interest for the U.S. in Ukraine, and everything to lose given Russia is a nuclear-armed power, Biden has vowed that the U.S. will be alongside Ukraine for the long haul.

Wednesday’s is the largest single military aid package approved by the Biden administration since the war broke out. In total, the U.S. has doled out $13.7 billion in military aid to Ukraine, which dwarfs the budget of several prominent federal programs. It’s twice as much as Congress’s $6.6 billion operating budget. It’s nearly one-and-a-half times bigger than the budget of the National Science Foundation and the federal judiciary, which have respective budgets of $9.2 and $9.7 billion. Add another $2.2 billion, and  U.S. military aid to Ukraine will have matched the operating budget of the EPA.

To make a more direct comparison, the $13.7 billion already given to Ukraine—again, in the span of just six months—is more than four times the amount of military aid the U.S. provided Israel in fiscal year 2020.

And the amount of military aid for Ukraine is only set to climb much higher as the Russian advance in Donetsk has slowed and Biden provides the military-industrial complex further access to medium- and long-term revenue streams.

Most members of Congress, Republican or Democrat, are unwilling to speak out against the military-industrial complex’s new cash cow. But Rep. Dan Bishop, a Republican from North Carolina, is not among them. “We shouldn’t be sending Ukraine another dollar, let alone $3 billion,” Bishop told The American Conservative. “We’ve already spent far more than any European ally has been willing to, and we can’t even muster a fraction of this effort to secure our own border.”

Indeed, America’s current foreign policy regime and its apparatchiks root for disorder and discontent at home, so the public has reasonably turned a blind eye to the next aid package going out the door.

“This continued funding is a perfect example of America Last policy,” Bishop added. And that’s exactly how the fat generals would have it as they prepare to gorge on a FY2023 defense budget that could reach $1 trillion.

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