If Biden Gets Ukraine Funding Will He Use It?

Marc Ash / Reader Supported News
If Biden Gets Ukraine Funding Will He Use It? A wounded Ukrainian soldier rests at a hospital in Ukraine’s Donetsk region. (photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

There are plenty of US made F-16 fighter jets in the hands of European NATO countries and those countries are perfectly willing to give the planes to Ukraine now and have been for a long time. Delivery still awaits final approval from US President Joe Biden. The US has literally millions of rounds of artillery ammunition sitting in stockpiles that it could send to Ukraine if Biden were willing to do so, he will not approve it. David Axe writing for Forbes reports, “Joe Biden Could Send Millions Of Artillery Shells To Ukraine, For Free, Tomorrow. And It’s Perfectly Legal.”

F-16 fighter jets, artillery rounds, long range missiles you name it, almost all senior US military analysts agree, if the political will was there the weapons would be there. Everyone in Congress understands this very well, it’s not news to them. They listen to Biden and his aids lobby for aid, but they are well aware that even if he gets funding his reluctance to act will still throttle the effort to confront Putin.

It is important to note that concerns over Biden’s reluctance to fully back the war effort in Ukraine are not new or limited to the current dispute with Trump-allied hard line Republicans in the House of Representatives. Veteran defense analysts, including retired senior US commanders warned almost from the onset of the Russian 24 February 2022 invasion that the administration’s efforts to arm Ukraine were not sufficient, urging quite publicly the Biden White House to do more.

Direct conflict with Russia has been something Biden has sought to avoid throughout his presidency. Biden’s remarks in the days following the 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine were key to understanding his mindset and approach to handling the current crisis: avoid direct conflict, avoid escalation and avoid World War III. While these objectives would seem worthy to any rational Westerner Vladimir Putin reacts differently when he hears Biden’s words of restraint.

When Putin hears Biden say the West does not want a conflict with Russia he hears, the West will not militarily defend Ukraine, and so far that has largely been true. Absent a meaningful Western counterforce to Russian aggression in Ukraine Russia feels unimpeded and free to use any and all means to force the Ukrainians to capitulate.

The debate in Washington over aid to Ukraine revolves largely around funding. When the issue of funding arises the subject of frozen Russian assets is always front and center. Prior to the 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine Russia had the equivalent of hundreds of billions of US dollars in foreign financial institutions. Accounts of exactly how much cash and other assets are stored and where are subjects of considerable debate, but there seems to be a general consensus that at least 300 billion dollars in liquid Russian assets are under control of the US and its partners.

A great deal has been written about the ability of the US and the EU to use Russian assets for aid to Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal most recently put it this way: It’s Time to Seize Russia’s Reserves.

To be clear the US and EU can use a portion or all of those Russian funds to aid Ukraine. Biden Administration and EU officials have so far allowed concerns over the appearance of propriety and the implications for international banking to forestall accessing those assets, but all international banking experts agree, it can be done.

The question with regard to Biden as a wartime president remains, what is he prepared to do? The Russians are slaughtering Ukrainians wholesale on a daily basis in the heart of Europe, on NATO’s doorstep and yet Biden will not use the tools he clearly has at his disposal. What message does that send?

It sends a messages to friend and foe alike. How can Biden expect anyone in Congress to treat funding for Ukraine as an Urgent matter when the President will not use the resources he clearly has at disposal for that very purpose? The US had levied or participated in levying over 16,500 sanctions against Russia in connection with the invasion of Ukraine. The recent announcement of an additional 500 sanctions brings the total to roughy 17,000. It begs the question, if Putin didn’t care about the first 16,500 sanctions why would he care about the latest 500? In fact there is no indication Putin does care.

National security is primarily the domain of the President. Congress does have and must have an important constitutional role to play in wartime decision making, but the President plays an outsized and central role. Unless he doesn’t. Part of President’s role in Wartime is to lead by example. Biden’s inaction is creating a state of inaction on Capitol Hill and in Europe. The West is waiting for Biden to act with the authority granted him under US law. His continued reluctance to do so is making a lasting impression.

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