Ukraine-US relations have become increasingly important since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The US is now in the midst of an election campaign, while Ukraine is entering a decisive stage of the war. The outcome of this war will not only determine Ukraine's future, but also the future of the entire democratic world. The victory or defeat of Ukraine will also significantly impact the world in which the US continues to exist.
For Russia, this is a war to try to remove the US from the global arena. At the same time, China is closely watching and concluding how Europe and the US are reacting to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Beijing will consider these reactions in the context of its policy towards Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan – all important Asian allies of the US. Meanwhile, Iran and North Korea are growing bolder.
Continuity of military aid and US domestic politics
Since Russia launched it’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, the US has become a leader among countries providing financial and military assistance to Ukraine. The first month of direct military aid (according to the US Embassy in Ukraine) amounted to $350 million. It reached $5.6 billion in January 2023, then by the end of that year decreased to $175 million.
Today, there is information from all sides – publicly and non-publicly – that the volumes of assistance from the US will remain at a different level than in previous years. Yet the threat from Russia towards Ukraine remains high.
Internal problems are taking precedence in the US, just as Ukraine still needs to receive the promised $60 billion in funding by the end of 2023. We in Ukraine have effectively become hostages to domestic political disputes in the US.
For Ukraine, this is a lesson that it is necessary to work not only with those who make decisions in Washington but also with voters in the states where representatives are calling to stop aid to Ukraine. All US politicians must understand that refusing to support Ukraine at this critical moment will force US allies to seek other strategic partners in the face of global threats. And Russian President Vladimir Putin will be able to present a narrative of “the US’ inability to fulfill its obligations and the loss of its role as an international leader.”
Russia’s military capabilities
US and Ukrainian military leaders are seeking a new strategy for 2024 to regain Ukraine's position. At the same time, after Putin expected to take “Kyiv in three days” in 2022, Russia began changing tactics and regaining strength. It now has more troops, ammunition, and missiles and has increased its firepower advantage with the use of fleets of combat drones, many of which, according to US officials, are supplied by Iran.
Russia constantly conducts hybrid warfare against European and US countries, including cyber attacks. It will use any attempts to freeze the war with the current frontline situation to rearm and attack again – not only Ukraine but also NATO countries.
Some US military officials want Ukraine to adhere to the “hold and build” strategy, focusing on holding its territory and increasing weapons production. The US believes that this strategy will increase Ukraine's self-sufficiency and provide Kyiv with the ability to deter any new Russian aggression.
Ukraine’s defensive abilities
Our war cannot and will not be endless. At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Ukraine demonstrated that it could effectively repel Russian attacks and, later, even advance against an army that called itself the best in the world.
We have shown that even without extensive preparation, we can operate Western equipment, repel massed and mixed missile attacks, repair damaged equipment, and rebuild and restore residential areas and electric substations. That is why we should now deepen cooperation in the defense field. It is time to develop proposals for concluding a bilateral security agreement with the US.
Kyiv does not ask other nations to fight on its land Even after the war, there is no talk of the presence of US troops on Ukrainian territory. We are talking about strengthening cooperation in defense and security, where respective parties undertake to help each other in case of aggression by another state on their territory.
In December 2023, a special conference of Ukrainian and US industry, government officials, and other state actors organizing our defense, took place. There was also the Defense Industry Forum last September, which brought together 252 companies from 30 countries producing a full range of armaments, military equipment, and defense systems. I especially want to acknowledge US defense companies and partners in Europe – everyone genuinely helping to counter the Russian onslaught.
Our partners are confident that Ukraine has the necessary base to build a powerful defense industry complex despite the war. Ukrainian enterprises are already producing artillery ammunition and shells, NATO-caliber 155mm artillery systems, and unique automated systems: maritime drones, long-range UAVs, missiles, and anti-tank complexes, effectively used on the front lines. The pace of development of Ukrainian production and technologies is constantly increasing. The defense industry has become one of the critical components of Ukraine's economic growth.
The Ministry of Defense of the United States, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Strategic Industries of Ukraine have already signed the agreement on joint production and exchange of technical information, including in the field of air defense systems, repair and maintenance, and production of critical ammunition. It will also expedite the approval of investment deals through the relevant systems.
How the US benefits from military aid to Ukraine
It is important to remember that military aid from Ukraine benefits the US itself. Out of the $68 billion in military and related aid allocated by Congress after Feb, 24, 2022, around 90 percent has gone to US manufacturers. It has mobilized the US defense industry and attracted billions of dollars in investment in arms production. The funds are not going directly to Ukraine but are used for the production of new weapons within the US to replace those sent from US stockpiles. It means that factories across the US have received significant funding, in turn creating new jobs and opportunities for local manufacturers and suppliers.
The military assistance to Ukraine from Western countries has also increased the revenues of private defense companies. For example, the unit of General Dynamics Combat Systems, which produces armored vehicles, tanks, and artillery used in Ukraine, increased its income by almost 25 percent compared to the pre-war year.
Leadership appointments in Ukraine
There are urgent issues that need to be addressed in Ukraine. For example, Alexander Kamyshin was appointed the head of the Supervisory Board of the joint-stock company "Ukrainian Defense Industry." I note that the appointment was made unilaterally, without discussion and approval by the relevant committees in the Verkhovna Rada.
The professional qualifications and independence of such officials raises serious doubts. Indeed, this type of approach to staffing issues of a strategic enterprise does not contribute to developing the Ukrainian defense industry. It is hard to imagine that foreign partners will be willing to invest, provide technology, lobby, and protect the interests of the leading institution of Ukraine's military-industrial complex, whose activities depend on the mood and will of one Ukrainian minister.
On the one hand, Ukraine is highly interested in creating all the conditions for developing Ukrainian and international business partnerships. On the other hand, it is taking highly unprofessional steps that could lead to the opposite result.
However, the primary and common goal of Ukraine and the US is to counter aggression and terrorism. US investments in the defense of Ukraine will guarantee long-term security not only for Ukraine but also for Europe and, without exaggeration, the whole world.
Vadym Ivchenko is a Member of Parliament of Ukraine and Member of the Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
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