U.S. Vows to Continue Support for Ukraine, Despite Funding Doubts

Officials sitting at a table in front of American and Ukrainian flags.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, center right, was in Germany on Tuesday for the start of a semiregular meeting of nearly 50 nations who are supplying Ukraine’s forces.Credit…Michael Probst/Associated Press
Lara Jakes

By Lara Jakes

Lara Jakes writes about weapons and military aid to Ukraine.

March 19, 2024Updated 2:28 p.m. ET

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The United States and European nations vowed on Tuesday to maintain military support for Ukraine, even though future American aid remains snarled in Congress and modest donations of new weapons reflected an alliance with relatively little left to give as the war against Russia enters a critical stretch.

The U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, in Germany for the start of a meeting of about 50 governments that are supplying Kyiv’s forces, said that allies would “dig deeper to get vital security assistance to Ukraine.”

To that end, Germany’s defense minister, Boris Pistorius, said Berlin would send Ukraine 10,000 rounds of badly needed artillery shells, 100 armored infantry vehicles and transport equipment in a new $544 million infusion of support. The Finnish defense chief, Antti Häkkänen, announced a $32 million donation to help the Czech Republic buy 800,000 rounds of ammunition, including from beyond NATO-member militaries and manufacturers.

And Mr. Austin highlighted the new $300 million package of attack and air defense missiles, artillery rounds and armor systems that the United States pledged for Ukraine last week.



Yet Ukrainian forces could burn through much of the new aid within months, if not weeks. It is unlikely that the Biden administration will be able to send much more unless Republicans in the House of Representatives unlock a $60 billion emergency spending plan for additional weapons for Ukraine and to bolster armament production in the United States.

“We will have to deal with it, and we will deal with it,” Mr. Pistorius said on the sidelines of the meeting, held at Ramstein Air Base, an American military hub in Germany, when asked about the blocked funding in Washington.

He said Germany was prepared to continue supporting Ukraine, and “I’m sure and I’m convinced the United States will, like it used to do before, too.”

Mr. Austin declared at the meeting’s start that “Ukraine’s battle remains one of the great causes of our time.” Later, he cast the war as “crucial to our own security” in remarks that seemed directed more toward critics in Congress than to the journalists before him in Germany.

“The United States would face grave new perils in a world where aggression and autocracy are on the march, and where tyrants are emboldened, and where dictators think that they can wipe democracy off the map,” Mr. Austin said.

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“Today, Ukraine’s survival is in danger and America’s security is at risk,” he said. “They don’t have a day to waste, and we don’t have a day to spare either.”

While the United States remains the single largest donor of military support to Ukraine, Mr. Austin praised recent donations of weapons by Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden. He also noted the Czech campaign to scrounge the world for artillery shells, the first tranche of which could arrive on the battlefield within weeks.

Ukraine’s soldiers are already running out of many munitions: A shortage of artillery shells helped force a retreat in the eastern city of Avdiivka, and air defense missiles have been rationed around the highest-priority cities and infrastructure to protect against Russian strikes.

On Monday, after meeting Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine ticked off a list of missiles, fighter jets and shells that he said were urgently needed on front lines.

In his own summary of the Monday meeting in Kyiv, Mr. Graham predicted that at least some American assistance to Ukraine would arrive as loans, as former President Donald J. Trump has urged, instead of donated outright.

“I know Americans want to help our friends and allies, but I also believe we must consider our economic situation as we help others,” Mr. Graham said in a statement. He said he would also demand that the Biden administration send longer-range missiles to Ukraine, enabling its forces to strike Russian-held territory, and speed training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 warplanes.

The uncertainty over the American commitment to Ukraine has largely left European allies to try to fill the gap, but producers of key weapon systems and artillery ammunition have struggled to ramp up and are unable to keep pace with the demand.

Some European leaders — especially in the Baltics, Nordic countries and nations that border Ukraine — have also raised alarms about the specter of Russia’s invading NATO territory should it win the current conflict.

Mr. Austin echoed those concerns ahead of the meeting at Ramstein, where he sat next to Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov. It was Mr. Austin’s first in-person return to the group since two hospitalizations this year, including a dayslong stint in January related to complications from prostate cancer surgery that he did not disclose to the White House, prompting criticism.

“Let’s not kid ourselves: Putin will not stop at Ukraine,” Mr. Austin said. “But as President Biden has said, Ukraine can stop Putin if we stand with Ukraine and provide the weapons that it needs to defend itself.”

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington and Christopher Schuetze from Berlin.

Lara Jakes, based in Rome, reports on diplomatic and military efforts by the West to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. She has been a journalist for nearly 30 years. More about Lara JakesREAD 5 COMMENTS

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Our Coverage of the War in Ukraine

News and Analysis

  • Ukraine fired a volley of exploding drones at Moscow and other targets on the final day of Russia’s presidential vote, the local authorities said, continuing a flurry of attacks timed for the rubber-stamp election.
  • The United States and six other major world powers warned Iran not to provide ballistic missiles to Russia to aid Moscow’s war against Ukraine and threatened to retaliate if it did by cutting off Iranian air travel to Europe, among other measures.
  • A U.N. commission said it had uncovered new evidence of widespread torture of Ukrainian prisoners held by Russian security forces, detailing a range of what it described as Russian war crimes, including summary executions and sexual violence.

Read More

  • Targeting Russia’s Oil Industry: With its army short of ammunition and troops to break the deadlock on the battlefield, Kyiv has increasingly taken the fight beyond the Ukrainian border, attacking oil infrastructure deep in Russian territory.
  • Electronic Warfare: Drones have become a critical weapon for both Russia and Ukraine. But Moscow’s capability to overpower Ukrainian signals by broadcasting on the same frequencies at higher power is putting Kyiv at a disadvantage.
  • Helping the War Effort: Since the early days of the war, thousands of Ukrainian volunteers have led crowdfunding efforts that have been crucial in supplying the military with equipment. But as the conflict drags on, it is becoming harder to raise money.

How We Verify Our Reporting

  • Our team of visual journalists analyzes satellite images, photographs, videos and radio transmissions to independently confirm troop movements and other details.
  • We monitor and authenticate reports on social media, corroborating these with eyewitness accounts and interviews. Read more about our reporting efforts.

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