July 3, 2022

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The Biden administration’s large $33 billion help request for Ukraine is the newest initiative within the effort to offer weaponry wanted by Ukraine to fend off the Russian invasion of their nation. However the sheer measurement of the bundle, coupled with latest administration statements that counsel the U.S. purpose has shifted from serving to defend Ukraine to “weakening Russia,” present trigger for concern.

Whereas Russian aggression in Ukraine has been appalling — together with the seemingly cavalier homicide of civilians and different alleged conflict crimes — it’s vitally vital that the U.S. contemplate each the dangers and prices of offering this extraordinary quantity of navy help to Ukraine.

Whereas Ukrainian fighters will profit from these arms, these arms transfers pose various dangers as properly, not the least of which is the potential for getting the U.S. right into a direct navy confrontation with Russia, one thing the overwhelming majority of People are against. And, that may be extra, not much less, seemingly if Congress uncritically approves this help bundle.

Putin has declared that arms shipments are “respectable targets,” so extra arms shipments put extra U.S. troopers in danger and lift the potential for a direct navy confrontation between American troopers and Russia forces. As Seth G. Jones of the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research informed the New York Instances, “the chance of a widening conflict is critical proper now … Russian casualties are persevering with to mount, and the U.S. is dedicated to transport extra highly effective weapons which might be inflicting these casualties.” There’s additionally the likelihood that U.S. arms will fall into the fingers of U.S. adversaries, as they’ve in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.

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As Congress and the general public debate these dangers they need to even be aware of the direct financial prices of this new help bundle as properly.

For starters, if Congress indicators off on this new request, the U.S. may have licensed $47 billion in complete spending to Ukraine this yr alone. That’s greater than the Biden administration is committing to stopping local weather change and nearly as a lot as your complete State Division price range.

The help bundle is greater than the entire sum of money all however 13 international locations on the earth spend on their navy.

The overwhelming majority of this new help bundle, $20.4 billion, is for “extra safety and navy help for Ukraine and for U.S. efforts to strengthen European safety in cooperation with our NATO allies and different companions within the area,” based on the White Home.

This, mixed with the sooner help bundle, would make Kyiv the most important recipient of U.S. navy help in no less than 20 years, defined Elias Yousif, a safety help professional on the Stimson Middle. It might even be twice the most important yearly complete ever offered to Afghanistan, when U.S. forces have been instantly combating there.

As well as, there may be the direct financial value to U.S. taxpayers who, in the end, must foot the invoice for this historic help bundle. A part of that value may come from the sorts of fraud, waste and abuse that teams just like the Particular Inspector Basic for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) have uncovered in different circumstances the place billions of {dollars} have been being shoveled out the door within the title of nationwide safety.

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Serving to Ukraine defend itself is vital, nevertheless it must be achieved with a watch towards limiting the dangers of escalation and unintended financial and safety penalties. The administration’s newest help request must be fastidiously debated, properly accounted for, and scrutinized earlier than it’s allowed to proceed in its present type.

Ben Freeman, PhD, is a analysis fellow on the Quincy Institute for Accountable Statecraft. William D. Hartung is a senior analysis fellow on the Quincy Institute. They wrote this column for Tribune Information Service.