Jun 6, 2022
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Congress has signed four laws that send enormous amounts of money and weapons to Ukraine, attempting to punish Russia for President Putin’s invasion. In this episode, we examine these laws to find out where our money will actually go and attempt to understand the shifting goals of the Biden administration. The big picture, as it’s being explained to Congress, differs from what we’re being sold.
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Kimberly Leonard. May 19, 2022. “20 members of Congress personally invest in top weapons contractors that'll profit from the just-passed $40 billion Ukraine aid package.” Insider.
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Passed by Voice Vote in the Senate
Senate Vote: 100-0 (amended the original House bill)
House debate 1 (on original version)
House debate 2 (final version)
May 23, 2022
May 19, 2022
Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation
Charles Edel, Ph.D., Australia Chair and Senior Adviser, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Bonny Lin, Ph.D., Director, China Power Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Tanvi Madan, Ph.D.Director, The India Project, Brookings Institution
Dan Blumenthal, Ph.D., Senior Fellow and Director of Asian Studies, American Enterprise Institute
May 18, 2022
House Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism
Dr. Hanna Notte, Senior Research Associate,
Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
Dr. Frederic Wehrey, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Caitlin Welsh, Director of the Global Food Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Grant Rumley, Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
12:55 Hanna Notte: First, Moscow's military presence in Syria has given it a buffer zone on its southern flank to counter perceived threats from within the region, but also to deter NATO outside the European theater. And second, Russia has turned to the region to diversify its economic relations with a focus on arms sales, civilian nuclear exports and wheat supplies. And in building influence, Russia has largely followed what I call a low cost high disruption approach, also using hybrid tactics such as private military companies and disinformation. Now, these Russian interests in the region will not fundamentally change with the invasion of Ukraine. Today, Russia's regional diplomacy remains highly active, aimed at offsetting the impact of Western sanctions and demonstrating that Moscow is not isolated internationally.
14:09 Hanna Notte: Starting with arms control and Non-Proliferation, though Moscow seemed intent on spoiling negotiations to restore the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] in early March. It subsequently dropped demands for written guarantees that its cooperation with Iran would not be hindered by sanctions imposed over Ukraine. But still, I think the geopolitical situation might make Moscow less willing to help finalize a nuclear deal. As in the past, Russia is also unlikely to support any US efforts to curb Iran's use of missiles and proxies in the region, because essentially, Iran's regional strategy pins down us resources while elevating Russia as a regional mediator, which serves Russian interests well.
15:17 Hanna Notte: Just a few words on Syria. Security Council resolution 2585 on the provision of humanitarian aid to northwest Syria is up for renewal in July. Now, Rationally speaking, the Kremlin should cooperate to avoid a worsening of serious food crisis, especially if an end game in Ukraine remains out of reach. But considering the current level of tensions between Russia and the West, I think the United States should be prepared for a Russian Security Council veto regardless, alongside continued Russian stalling on the Syrian constitutional committee. Moscow has no serious interest in seeing the committee advance. It will instead try to foster a Gulf Arab counterweight to Iran in Syria through normalization, especially for the contingency that Russia may need to scale back its own presence in Syria due to Ukraine.
16:14 Hanna Notte: First, unfortunately I think there's a widespread perception that the Ukraine war is not their war, that it's a Great Power NATO-Russia war, partially fueled by NATO and US actions visa vis Russia.
16:27 Hanna Notte: Second, there are accusations of Western double standards. The military support to Kyiv, the reception of Ukrainian refugees, these are rightly or wrongly viewed as proof that the West cares significantly more about conflict in Europe's neighborhood than those in the Middle East.
16:42 Hanna Notte: Third, regional elites worry about US conventional security guarantees. They fear that the threats posed by Russia and China will accelerate a decline in US power in the Middle East. And they also fear that the US will have limited bandwidth to confront Iran's missile and proxy activities. And with those fears, they feel they cannot afford to put all their eggs into the US basket.
17:07 Hanna Notte: And then finally, each regional state has very distinct business and security interests with Russia. As a result, and I'll end here, I think us opportunities to get regional states to turn against Russia are circumscribed. loosening these ties that states have been building with Russia will require a heavy lift.
18:57 Frederic Wehrey: This engagement is largely opportunistic and ad hoc. It seizes on instability and power vacuums and exploits the insecurities of US partners in the region about the reliability of US support, and their displeasure with the conditionality that the US sometimes attaches to its arms sales. Russian arms deliveries, in contrast, are faster and free from restrictions related to human rights. But Russia cannot provide the security guarantees that many Arab states have depended on from the United States.
19:29 Frederic Wehrey: Now, in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is trying to reap dividends from its investment in the region, call in favors, and capitalize on local ambivalence and hostility to the United States, both from states and from Arab publics. America's Arab security partners have differed on joining the Western condemnation of Russian aggression, and some of refuse to join efforts to isolate Russia economically.
20:31 Frederic Wehrey: Russia's disastrous war in Ukraine is tarnishing its reputation as an arms supplier in the Middle East. Russian weapons have been shown to be flawed in combat and often fatally. So, Battlefield expenditures and attrition have whittled away Russia's inventory, especially precision munitions, and sanctions have eroded its defense industrial base, especially electronic components. As a result, Russia won't be able to fulfill its existing commitments, and potential buyers will be increasingly dissuaded from turning to Russia. This shortfall could be modestly exploited by China, which possesses large quantities of Russian made arms and spare parts, which you could use to keep existing inventories in the region up and running. It could also intensify its efforts to sell its own advanced weaponry like drones.
23:50 Caitlin Welsh: The war has reduced supplies and increased prices of foods exported from Ukraine and Russia, namely wheat, maize and sunflower oil, driven up demand for substitute products and reduced fertilizer exports from the Black Sea. Today's high cost of energy puts further pressure on food and fertilizer prices. Most vulnerable to the impact of these price spikes are countries for whom wheat is a major source of calories that rely on imports to meet their food security needs, and that source a significant proportion of their imports from Ukraine and Russia.
24:38 Caitlin Welsh: Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat, sourcing over 70% of its wheat from the Black Sea.
25:42 Caitlin Welsh: The Russian Ukraine war is limiting access to wheat for Lebanon, already in one of the worst economic crises in the world. Lebanon has not recorded economic growth since 2017 and food price inflation inflation reached 400% in December 2021. Lebanon procures approximately 75% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
28:48 Grant Rumley: Russia is one of the few countries in the world to maintain a relatively positive diplomatic standing with nearly every country in the Middle East. It does so through a combination of an active military presence, high level diplomatic engagement, and a concerted effort to position itself as a viable source of arms, should countries seek non-US material.
29:08 Grant Rumley: Russia's military presence in the region is well documented by Russian MOD statements. Russia has deployed over 60,000 troops to Syria since intervening in 2015. From its two bases in Syria, Hmeimim and Tartous, Russia is able to project power into the eastern Mediterranean, influence the course of the Syrian civil war, and intervene in countries like Libya.
29:47 Grant Rumley: Russia's invasion of Ukraine, however, threatens Russia standing in the region. Already reports indicate Russia has begun withdrawing some troops and mercenaries from the region to support its invasion of Ukraine. While we can expect these reports to continue if the war continues to go poorly for Russia, I'm skeptical of a full Russian withdrawal, and instead expect Russia to continue to consolidate its forces until it's left with a skeleton presence at Hmeimim and Tartous, its most strategic assets in the region.
30:26 Grant Rumley: On arms sales, the Russian defense industry, which has struggled to produce key platforms following sanctions initially placed after its 2014 invasion of Ukraine, will likely have to prioritize replenishing the Russian military over exporting. Further, customers of Russian arms may struggle with the resources to maintain and sustain the material in their inventory. Still, so long as Russia is able to make platforms, there will likely always be potential customers of Russian arms.
41:25 Grant Rumley: I definitely think customers of Russian arms are going to have several hurdles going forward, not only with simply maintaining and sustaining what they've already purchased, but in some of the basic logistics, even the payment process. Russian bank complained last month that it wasn't able to process close to a billion dollars in payments from India and Egypt over arms sales. I think countries that purchase Russian arms will also now have to consider the potential that they may incur secondary sanctions, in addition to running afoul of CAATSA [Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act-Related Sanctions]. I think from from our standpoint, there are many ways that we can amend our security cooperation approach. The Middle East, I think is a key theater for the future of great power competition, not only have we been competing with Russia in terms of arms sales there, but China increasingly has sold armed drones to the region. They've sold it to traditional partners, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE. And what they're doing is is oftentimes what we're not willing to do, our partners in the region seek co-production, they seek technology sharing. China and Russia are willing to work together to build these advanced platforms, Russia and the UAE inked an agreement several years ago to produce a fifth generation fighter. Nothing's come of that yet. China and Saudi Arabia, however, signed an agreement a couple of months ago to jointly produce armed drones in Saudi Arabia. And so I think the US may want to think creatively in terms of both what we sell, how we sell it, and what we're doing to make this more of a relationship and something beyond a strict transaction.
43:39 Grant Rumley: Their presence in Syria has evolved from a modest airstrip in 2015, to a base at Hmeimim that by open source reporting can serve as a logistics hub, a medical hub, it has the runways to host Russia's most advanced bombers. There was reports before Ukraine that Russia was deploying two 22 bombers there and hypersonic missiles. Their facility at Tartous, likewise. Their ability to stage naval assets there has expanded to they can now stage up to 11 ships there. So it has grown from from a rather modest beginning to something much more challenging from a US standpoint. In terms of what we can we can do, I think we can continue to support Ukraine and the defense of Ukraine, and the longer that Russia is bogged down in Ukraine, the harder it will be for Russia's military to extend and maintain its presence in the Middle East.
1:01:45 Grant Rumley: I think the US has several partners in the middle of major Russian arms purchases that we can, like Turkey and the S 400, that has requested the F 16, or Egypt and Sukhoi Su-35, that has requested the F 15. I'm not saying we have to make a deal right now for that, but I think it's clear that these countries are going to have gaps in their capabilities where they had planned on having Russian platforms to complement, and we can work with our partners and work with our own defense industry and see if there's ways in which we can provide off ramps for them to gradually disinvest these Russian platforms.
1:03:00 Frederic Wehrey: When countries in the in the region buy US arms, they believe they're buying much more than the capability, the hardware, that they're purchasing an insurance policy. I think especially for states in the Gulf, there's a fundamental sense of insecurity. These are states that face Iran, but they're also autocrats. They're insecure because of their political systems. They face dissent from within. We saw that with Egypt. So they're purchasing a whole stream of US assurances -- they believe they are.
1:06:00 Grant Rumley: The issue of of co-production is one means to address a common complaint, which is buying from America takes too long. That its too complicated, that if we get in line to buy something from the US, we're going to have to wait years to get it. A good example is the F 16. There are over 20 countries in the world that fly the F 16. We currently -- Lockheed Martin builds it out of one facility. That facility, if you get in line today, you're probably not getting the F 16 for five years from when you sign on the dotted line for it. In the 70s and 80s, we co-produced the F 16 with three other European countries and we were able to get them off the line faster. The initial order at those facilities was for 1000 F 16s. The initial order for the F 16 plant in South Carolina was for 90 F 16s for Taiwan and Morocco. And so from an industry standpoint, it's a question of scale. And so they're not able to ramp up the production because while the demand may get closer to 1000 over time, it's at 128. Last I checked, it's not there yet. And so I think we can use foreign military financing, longer security cooperation planning, working with our partners on multi-year acquisition timetables to then also communicate and send a signal to the defense industry that these are orders for upgrades, for new kits that are going to come down the road. You can start to plan around that and potentially address some of these production lags.
1:17:52 Grant Rumley: China has a lot of legacy Russian platforms, and will likely be a leading candidate to transfer some of these platforms to countries that had purchased Russian arms in the past and may be seeking maintenance and sustainment for them. I think China's already active in the Middle East, it's already flooding the market with armed drones. It's already looking to market other platforms as well. It's sold air defense systems to Serbia. It's looking to advance its arm sales. And so if if we aren't going to be the supplier, China is going to step in.
1:18:57 Caitlin Welsh: USDA has projected that 35% of the current wheat crop from Ukraine will not be harvested this year. So their exports are curtailed, at the same time Russia's exports are continuing. Russia has been exempted. Russia's agricultural exports and fertilizer has been exempted from sanctions for the United States, EU and other countries. So Russia continues to export. In fact, USDA is estimating that Russia's exports are increasing at this time. And I'm also seeing open source reporting of Russia stealing grain from Ukraine, relabeling it, and exporting it at a premium to countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
May 12, 2022 NBC News
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): My oath of office is to the US Constitution, not to any foreign nation. And no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States of America. We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy. This bill under consideration would spend $40 billion. This is the second spending bill for Ukraine in two months. And this bill is three times larger than the first. Our military aid to Ukraine is nothing new, though. Since 2014, the United States has provided more than $6 billion dollars in security assistance to Ukraine, in addition to the $14 billion Congress authorized just a month ago. If this bill passes, the US will have authorized roughly $60 billion in total spending for Ukraine
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): The cost of this package we are voting on today is more than the US spent during the first year of the US conflict in Afghanistan. Congress authorized force, and the President sent troops into the conflict. The same cannot be said of Ukraine. This proposal towers over domestic priorities as well. The massive package of $60 billion to Ukraine dwarfs the $6 million spent on cancer research annually. $60 billion is more than the amount that government collects in gas taxes each year to build roads and bridges. The $60 billion to Ukraine could fund substantial portions or entire large Cabinet departments. The $60 billion nearly equals the entire State Department budget. The 60 billion exceeds the budget for the Department of Homeland Security and for the Department of Energy. And Congress just wants to keep on spending and spending.
May 12, 2022 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Jessica Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State for
Erin McKee, Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia, U.S. Agency for International Development
Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Beth Van Schaack, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): Are we making it very clear to Russia that we do not want to pose an existential threat to them, that our only goal is to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine? Karen Donfried: We are making it very clear to Russia that this is not a conflict between Russia and the United States. We are not going to engage directly in this war. President Biden has been explicit in saying we are not sending US troops to fight in this war. So I do believe we have made that clear. Our goal here is to end a war not to enlarge it.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH): As you all are waking up every morning, I know with the thought in mind that America's role here is to help Ukraine win and I want to talk a little about how we define victory. When Secretary Austin said after meeting with President Zelenskyy, that we can win this war against Russia -- this happened a few weeks ago -- I thought that was positive. On Monday, the foreign minister of Ukraine, who all of us have had a chance to visit with said, of course, the victory for us in this war will be a liberation of the rest of the territory. So Assistant Secretary Donfried, first, just a yes or no. Do you believe Ukraine can win this war? Karen Donfried: Yes. Sen. Rob Portman: And how would you define victory? Would you define victory as requiring the return of all Ukraine sovereign territory, including that that the Russians seized in 2014? Karen Donfried: Well, Senator Portman, thank you for that question. And thank you for your engagement on these issues. Your question very much relates to where Chairman Menendez began, which is, are we in a position of believing that it is Ukraine that should be defining what winning means? And I agreed with Chairman Menendez's statement on that, and that is where the administration is. We believe Ukraine should define what victory means. And our policy is trying to ensure Ukraine success, both by — Sen. Rob Portman: So the administration's official position on victory is getting Crimea back and getting the Donetsk and Luhansk region back as well. Karen Donfried: Again, I believe that is for the Ukrainians to define.
Karen Donfried: Against this threat to regional security, global stability, and our shared values, we are supporting freedom, democracy, and the rules based order that make our own security and prosperity and that of the world possible.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): I believe we must also think about reconstruction efforts in Ukraine, the tools and ongoing governance and economic reforms, specifically in the judicial space, that will facilitate rebuilding critical Ukrainian sectors and attracting foreign investment.
May 11, 2022
House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense held a budget hearing on the Department of Defense.
Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of Defense
Michael J. McCord, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer
General Mark A. Milley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
21:40 General Mark Milley: Alongside our allies and partners, at any given time approximately 400,000 of us are currently standing watch in 155 countries and conducting operations every day to keep Americans safe.
21:56 General Mark Milley: Currently we are supporting our European allies and guarding NATO's eastern flank, in the face of the unnecessary war of aggression by Russia, against the people of Ukraine, and the assault on the democratic institutions and the rules based international order that have prevented great power war for the last 78 years since the end of World War Two. We are now facing two global powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, both who intend to fundamentally change the current rules based order.
May 9, 2022
April 25, 2022
March 26, 2022
November 4, 2015
House Foreign Affairs Committee
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