POLITICO reported on Thursday that President Joe Biden was contemplating using State Department funds to ship weapons to Ukraine. Washington and Kyiv are beginning to panic as Congress did not pass Biden’s proposed $24 billion aid package to Ukraine in September.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Congress provided the White House with several pools of funds to draw from for arming Kyiv. Most of the weapons shipped to Ukraine have come via the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) that allows Biden to order the Pentagon to ship American arms directly to Ukraine. Congressional funding allows the Department of Defense to purchase new weapons to replace those sent to Ukraine.
It is unclear how much money remains in the PDA account. In June, the Pentagon reported it had uncovered an “accounting error” that freed up an additional $6.2 billion in PDA funds. However, the White House has started to burn through that money, and just over $5 billion remains.
Additionally, Congress has authorized other funds for arming Ukraine. The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) allows the Department of Defense to purchase weapons on behalf of Ukraine, and through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) the State Department gives Kyiv grants that can be used to buy American weapons. Congress earlier approved $4.6 billion in funds for the FMF of which about $650 million remains.
POLITICO spoke with two unnamed American officials who said the White House wants to use the $650 million in the FMF program to ship arms directly to Ukraine. The Pentagon is also looking at what items in its budget can be reprogrammed for Ukraine, although the White House would need Congressional approval for this.
The Biden administration is looking to use budgetary schemes to arm Ukraine as some members of Congress last week successfully prevented the body from passing a $24 billion aid package that includes $17 billion in military assistance.
On Tuesday, Biden held a call with allied leaders and warned that “time was not our friend.” According to a White House official, the president expressed that “we cannot under any circumstances allow America’s support [for] Ukraine to be interrupted. Time is not our friend.” The next day, Biden said, “[The situation] does worry me.”
A member of the Ukrainian legislature on Wednesday said people in Kyiv were beginning to panic. Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze told POLITICO, “We are freaking out. For us, it is a disaster.” She added, “We are interested in getting things sorted out so American democracy can function and so we can restore the bipartisan consensus on supporting their own national interest by supporting Ukraine.”
Last month, Congress considered passing the $24 billion aid package with the budget to fund the government for the 2024 fiscal year, which began October 1. However, the House and Senate agreed to a 45-day funding bill that did not provide any aid to Kyiv.
As the American people turn against providing more weapons to Ukraine, a strong majority in both parties and in both houses of Congress continue to support sending billions of more tax dollars to Ukraine. Some in the Senate, upset by the rigorous legislative process slowing the aid bill, are proposing a massive funding package that will authorize over $70 billion in aid for Ukraine.