Biden administration’s $4.2 billion bloody blackmail of Ukraine and Congress

The Biden administration has once again confirmed that it has the authority to transfer $4.2 billion of military aid for Ukraine, but is not delivering this vital aid to Ukraine.

Despite this admission, the administration has accelerated its months-long attacks on House Republicans, who have nothing to do with the fate of the $4.2 billion, for not passing supplemental security bill.

On February 20, three high-level administration’s officials almost simultaneously sent around seemingly logical but essentially fundamentally flawed message. Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby and President’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have mounted their attack on the Congress consisting of two key elements.

First, they not only admitted, but purposefully underscored recent Ukraine’s heavy losses on the battlefield, especially the painful retreat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) from the fortified city Avdiivka, due to lack of military supplies.

MS. SINGH: Well, Avdiivka unfortunately — it was a strategic withdrawal that Ukraine made in order to conserve their own artillery and ammunition.

MR. KIRBY: Ukrainian troops were forced to withdraw from the city of Avdiivka in the eastern part of Ukraine — and that happened on Saturday; I think you all know that — because they practically ran out of supplies, including artillery ammunition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Over the weekend, as you all have seen, Ukrainian troops were forced to withdraw from Avdiivka, a town in eastern Ukraine where they’d been battling Russia for many months, handing Putin his first notable battlefield victory in a year. This happened in large part because Ukraine is running out of weapons due to congressional inaction.  And Ukrainian troops didn’t have the supplies and ammunition they needed to stop the Russian advance.

Second, they blame the House for holding up support for Ukraine.

MS. SINGH: So, we are going to continue to urge Congress to pass this urgent supplemental request so that we can deliver Ukraine the air defenses, artillery and ammunition they need to defend themselves.  And as the vice president said in Munich last weekend, the failure to not pass a supplemental would be a gift to Vladimir Putin… we need the House to urgently pass and act — and work to pass this bipartisan supplemental agreement that passed last week in the Senate.

MR. KIRBY: Let’s be clear about this: Ukraine’s decision to withdraw from Avdiivka wasn’t because … we can’t get the supplemental funding and get the kinds of arms and ammunition into the hands of Ukrainian soldiers as soon as possible…

MR. SULLIVAN: …I think that individual House members have a responsibility to speak out and call for a vote, call for their Speaker, their elected leader, to put this bill on the floor for an up or down vote.  Because if it gets an up or down vote, it will pass overwhelmingly, on a bipartisan basis.

But resources for this purpose are available to the Biden administration not tomorrow, but today and even yesterday. Since December 27, 2023, the funds at the White House’ disposal has remained $4.2 billion. High-level officials confirmed that the administration has this legal authority given to the administration by Congress.

Q:  The Pentagon, I think still has $4 billion of authority…

MS. SINGH:  That’s right.

Officials insist that Congress must replenish stocks before they can provide military assistance to Ukraine, because otherwise the administration does not feel “comfortable”.

MR. KIRBY:  The replenishment authority is important.  Because we have provided so much, we’ve got to be mindful of our own stocks for our own national security purposes… …to your other question about the existing PDA and the importance of it — yes, there’s existing authority left, but without the replenishment authority, as I said, it’s not cost-free in terms of our own national security needs.

Q:  … to draw down but you don’t have any replacement money.  So why can’t an $800 billion institution just risk drawing down $4 billion of inventory on the assumption at some point you’re going to get it from Congress? Is that being discussed at all in the building?

MS. SINGH: …It’s an absolute risk for us to incur.  We don’t have the replenishment funds needed to resupply our own stocks.  So if we can’t do that, then we’re not able or we don’t feel comfortable enough to draw down or to give another PDA until we have those replenishment funds.

This explanation is problematic. Congress set a ceiling for military aid to Ukraine via the PDA channel at $25.5 billion, while also appropriating $25.9 billion for replenishment of those stocks. As of today, the Pentagon used all $25.9 billion for replenishment of stocks, but delivered only $19.7 billion to Ukraine via PDA. Therefore, military aid has been underused by $6.2 billion.

Additionally, the administration admits that they will get replenishment  funding eventually, but it still does not change the administration’s attitude towards comfort.

Q:  You manage risk here, but we’re talking like one-five-five shells, and a lot of weapons that wouldn’t be used in a fight against China.  Has there been discussion that why don’t we just put out $4 billion of PDAs on the assumption we’re — we’re going to get funding eventually if not soon?

MS. SINGH: Well again, we can say that we’re going to get funding eventually, but we’ve been ringing the alarm bell since October.  And so we’re already into February, the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is coming up at the end of the week.  We don’t know when we’re going to get the funding.

It appears the only real reason the administration refuses to provide the available military aid to Ukraine is that they want supplemental bill to be passed by the House.

MS. SINGH: And we’re going to continue — the discussions that we are having right now at the Secretary’s level, across the interagency, as we need Congress to give us a supplemental.

MR. KIRBY:  …We need the supplemental funding.  We absolutely have to have the supplemental funding to be able to continue to support Ukraine.

MR. SULLIVAN: …we need Congress to… take urgent action on this National Security Supplemental bill…

The White House’s determination to get the supplemental bill passed is apparent in the exchange between a journalist and Jake Sullivan.

Q:  …could you also address consideration for a loan to Ukraine absent congressional action?  Is that something that the White House is talking about?

MR. SULLIVAN: With respect to a loan to Ukraine, as I’ve said before, what we have requested and what the Senate passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis last week is both military assistance and economic assistance.  That economic assistance is in the form of grants, because asking Ukraine to take on and shoulder a substantial amount of debt right now, as it’s fighting for its life, we don’t regard that as the best way forward.  We think that the package we put together and that Democratic and Republican senators voted for last week is the right package. So, as far as I’m concerned, what we need to see from the House is that they move forward and pass this legislation, rather than have the United States negotiate against itself.

Finally, despite Ukraine’s heavy losses on the battlefield, the Biden administration is ready to continue to blackmail against both Ukraine and House.

Q:  … Can you tell us what other cities may be at risk of falling in Ukraine after Avdiivka?  Cause last week, the Pentagon was saying that the situation remains critical across (inaudible).

MS. SINGH:  …Look, if we don’t get more — if we don’t get the supplemental — I outlined that at the very top — but if we don’t get the funding needed from the Senate — or sorry, from the House to pass the Senate supplemental, we will not be able to provide these critical PDA packages and Ukraine will have to make choices and decisions on what cities, what towns they can hold with what they have and what partners can — can continue to supply them.

Thus, Biden administration high level officials confirmed:

  1. The Biden administration stopped delivery of military aid to Ukraine after December 27, 2023. As of now, it has not transferred it to Ukraine for two months.
  2. The aid deliveries stopped despite the fact that the White House has the authority to transfer military aid to Ukraine through the PDA channel in the amount of $4.2 billion.
  3. The Biden administration had underused, not overused, military aid to Ukraine via PDA. It spent $25.9 billion for replenishment of stocks, or $6.2 billion more than it sent military aid to Ukraine ($19.7 billion).
  4. The Biden administration also has funds at its disposal in the amount of $7.9 billion via the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) channel, which are intended to be placed as orders for the production of military items for Ukraine, but for the last year and half have not been placed yet.
  5. Therefore, over two years of war, the White House has not used at least $12.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, which is a quarter of the $47.8 billion appropriated by Congress for these purposes.
  6. Biden administration refused to use a loan mechanism and did not initiate Ukraine Democracy Lend-Lease Act overwhelmingly supported by Congress to send supplies to munitions-hungry Ukraine fighting for its survival.
  7. The Biden administration cites “not feeling comfortable enough” as the reason for blocking the transfer of military assistance to Ukraine. This term is absent in U.S. legislation, and such justification for non-compliance with U.S. laws by the executive branch is, to put it mildly, an innovation.
  8. The White House agrees that the supplemental bill passed by the Senate will ultimately be passed by the House, allowing funds to replenish military supplies. Despite this, the administration’s is still blocking military aid to Ukraine.
  9. The Biden administration admitted that the price of blocking military assistance to Ukraine was Avdiivka, a strategic fortified position for Ukrainian armed forces, falling to Russian forces, accompanied by significant losses of Ukrainian troops.
  10. The Biden administration predicts that its continued lack of military assistance to Ukraine might force Ukrainian forces to abandon other Ukrainian cities and towns.

As it is known, the supplemental funding bill approved in the Senate and currently sent to the House, does not contain measures to stop millions of illegal immigrants at the southern border, but does contain multi-billion dollars funding for the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in dire violation of the Taylor Force Act.

In addition, this bill does not specify the exact amounts of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine must be delivered to the victim of the Russian aggression in either fiscal year 2024 or 2025.

Even if the House passes this bill, the Biden administration may take exactly the same position it takes now regarding the existing unused funds. In other words, the delivery of military assistance to Ukraine through the PDA channel may be stopped by the administration at any time because it might “not feel comfortable enough,” while funds to order weapons and military equipment through the USAI channel may not be placed among manufacturers without any justification. Then the administration would again try to blame its own failure on its political opponents, using it as a way to support some other items in its political agenda.

The Biden administration’s treatment of Congress and Ukraine, which is fighting for its very survival, cannot be called anything other than cynical bloody blackmail. The price is the lives of tens and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians today and the destruction of the United States tomorrow.


Andrei Illarionov

Senior Analyst for Russian and European Affairs.

EDITORS NOTE: This Center for Security Policy column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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