by Micaela Burrow
The Biden administration plans to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine for years after the war to end Russia’s invasion reaches a conclusion, the Pentagon’s top official for policy and planning testified before Congress Tuesday.
The U.S. has provided more than $30 billion worth of weapons and equipment since the war in Ukraine began one year ago, including millions of artillery rounds and high-end equipment that requires years to produce and months during which to train Ukrainian troops. Regardless of how the war ends, the U.S. will need to continue providing Kyiv with weapons and military support for years to discourage Russia from making a subsequent attempt at conquering Kyiv, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl told the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing Tuesday.
“Those things are going to matter one, two plus years from now even if the conflict dies down because Ukraine is going to need these things for deterrence,” Kahl said in response to a question from Republican Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman.
The U.S. has provided weapons and training to Ukrainian troops since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014, meant to deter Russia from invading. Putin chose to invade anyway.
The hearing focused on oversight of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine and featured the DOD’s top inspector general Robert Storch as well as Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of operations at the Joint Staff.
DOD maintains a “pool of munitions to draw on for any range of scenarios” and has adjusted that pool based on the situation on the ground in Ukraine, Kahl explained.
“I don’t know how the war is going to end,” Kahl said. “I think one thing we know for sure is that Russia has lost … they will emerge from this conflict a shattered military.”
Kahl declined to go into specific details in an unclassified setting on how the U.S. is prioritizing weapons acquisition and distribution to both support Ukraine in the present and ensure readiness for a potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific. However, he said the Biden administration’s strategy remains to prioritize investment in the weapons Ukraine needs in the present.
Kahl argued that would not require depleting U.S. stocks needed to deter China in the Pacific. Russia’s much degraded force lessens demands on the total stocks the U.S. must maintain for deterrence.
“Russia does not have the capacity to take over Ukraine,” he said, after earlier in the hearing clarifying that Western support is critical to ensuring Ukraine’s victory.
Kahl did acknowledge the strains supporting Ukraine has placed on America’s arsenals and the need to recapitalize production lines for certain systems sent in large quantities.
The DoD OIG has been conducting oversight of assistance to Ukraine since before the Russian invasion. Through our reports and other agile products, we make recommendations that drive positive change. Tune into Inspector General Rob Storch’s testimony before #HASC. pic.twitter.com/EmzUGE0uHx
— DoD Inspector General (@DoD_IG) February 28, 2023
Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress pressed witnesses for details of Russia’s aid to Ukraine.
GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz highlighted an article from the Global Times, a Chinese state-run outlet, detailing U.S. financial assistance to the Neo-Nazi Azov battalion fighting on Ukraine’s behalf, a violation of Congress’ National Defense Authorization Act.
“As a general matter I don’t take Beijing’s propaganda at face value,” Kahl responded.
Storch said he had not identified any clear instances of illicit weapons diversion in Ukraine but reiterated that the inspector general’s oversight program is ongoing and focused on making sure DOD has the procedures in place to prevent fraud and misuse.
“We’re not just taking Ukrainians’ words for it,” Storch said. The watchdog uses shared software with NATO allies and provides scanners to Ukrainian troops operating in dangerous war zones to report U.S. weapons meet their intended destinations, he explained, although the security environment prevents DOD from maintaining monitoring outposts outside the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
“They are asking us for more because they are using everything we provided them,” Storch continued.
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Micaela Burrow is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Colin Kahl” by U.S. Department of Defense. Background Photo “Pentagon” by The U.S. National Archives.