U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine military aid: 'We are out of money, and nearly out of time'

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine military aid: 'We are out of money, and nearly out of time'

The White House has issued its most desperate-sounding appeal yet on behalf of Ukraine, warning that without congressional action U.S. military funding will expire this month.

The U.S. administration told senior lawmakers that Ukraine will face debilitating consequences on the battlefield unless it gets a new funding package this month.

"We are out of money, and nearly out of time," White House budget chief Shalanda Young told congressional leaders in a letter released Monday.

"This isn't a next year problem. The time to help a democratic Ukraine fight against Russian aggression is right now."

That sense of urgency was underscored by news Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address a private classified meeting of U.S. lawmakers Tuesday.

The White House said 97 per cent had already been spent from military funding for Ukraine, or $62.3 billion US so far based on one method for calculating weapons transfers. Young added the administration needed a top up this month.

That new money would pay for additional weapons to be manufactured in U.S. factories, and replenish the U.S. arsenal so older stockpiles can keep getting shipped to Ukraine.

For Ukraine's defence, American military support is an existential matter, as the U.S. has delivered more military aid than the rest of the world combined.

WATCH | How slowing U.S. military aid in Ukraine is affecting NATO allies: 

Top generals warn that NATO allies running low on artillery shells

2 months ago

Duration 2:53

Featured VideoA leading NATO official and Canada's top military commander have both warned allies that their ammunition shortages have reached a crisis state. They're calling for urgent action to boost production of critical artillery rounds.

That assistance faces growing international headwinds.

In Europe, Hungary has demanded that funding for Ukraine and Ukrainian membership in the European Union be stricken from the agenda of an EU meeting next week.

In the U.S. it's become ensnared in domestic politics: The Republican Party is split over the issue and its leaders are demanding concessions if there's going to be new funding.

What funding means in battlefield outcome

The author of a new book on the Russia-Ukraine war described funding as a fundamental factor that will determine the conditions under which this war ends.

Speaking at a Washington think-tank event last week, Gwendolyn Sasse described the Russian objective as destroying Ukraine as a state and nation.

She said Ukraine has, right now, no appetite whatsoever to negotiate territorial concessions, but a material shortfall could force it into a desperation move.

"In the end, a lot will depend on how the war develops further and that depends, in my view, to a large extent on what happens with Western military support and also financial support," Sasse, author of Russia's War against Ukraine, told a Wilson Center event.

"[We'll see] whether Ukraine will end up in a situation where Ukraine, and Ukrainians, can decide when to negotiate and what to negotiate. In the end, wars will end with some negotiation. Or will Ukraine be pushed into that position because Western support has dropped off? So that's, unfortunately I think, the very stark reality at the moment."

There haven't been any major battlefield effects yet, one military strategist told CBC News.

"There are reports of some ammunition shortages but nothing major yet," said Mark Cancian, an expert on military budgeting at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and retired marine and Defence Department official.

That's about to start changing, he predicted, adding Ukraine will have to reduce the amount of artillery it fires and carefully prioritize targets. 

Ukraine will not completely run out of ammunition because of European support, he said, but the drop in ammunition will allow Russian troops to move much more freely.

Over time, Cancian said, Ukraine would sustain more losses. It might, at best, be able to hold off the Russians — though even that's doubtful, he said.

What is certain, Cancian said, is "[Ukraine] will never be able to renew the offensive." 

WATCH | Why Ukraine is struggling to find a strategic edge against Russia: 

Why Ukraine can't beat Russia’s 'elastic defence' | About That

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Featured VideoProgress on the battlefield between Russia and Ukraine has slowed in both directions. Andrew Chang explores Russia's "elastic defence" tactic and why Ukraine is struggling to find a strategic edge.

Capitol Hill sticking point: The Mexico border

Which brings us back to Washington. In exchange for new overseas funding, Republicans want something dear to their voters: More security measures close to home.

Specifically, they want a tightening of the U.S.-Mexico border amid a surge in migration that has strained resources not only in border states but as far as New York City.

The parties are struggling to negotiate such a package and are so far apart, Democrats say, that the talks are essentially dead. Republicans insist this isn't true and an agreement is still possible.

A long line of people stand at a heavily guarded fence and border crossing
Republicans say their priority is tightening the Mexican border, seen here as migrants line up after being detained by U.S. authorities at Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in April. (Christian Chavez/The Associated Press)

The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, supports Ukraine funding and chastised Democrats for not negotiating quickly enough.

"Washington Democrats are wasting time with bizarre public scoldings," McConnell told the Senate on Monday.

"The Biden administration has chosen to ... lecture Congress."

But McConnell isn't the biggest problem for Democrats, or Ukraine. 

Their bigger challenge is in the House of Representatives. That chamber is led by Republicans — many of whom are Ukraine skeptics — and their leader is reportedly driving a hard bargain.

Speaker Mike Johnson has reportedly told other congressional leaders he wants the Senate to adopt a House-written border bill as a condition for new Ukraine funding.

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson is seen at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, ahead of a vote to pick a new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
A new funding bill would need a few Republican votes to pass the Senate, and would need major Republican support to pass the House of Representatives led by Republicans and Speaker Mike Johnson. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

That bill, H.R. 2 Secure the Border Act of 2023, would speed up deportations from the U.S., complete the border wall with Mexico, make it easier to expel migrant children and severely restrict the ability to apply for asylum.

That bill has no chance of passing the Democratic-led Senate in its current form, and would almost certainly trigger a grassroots rebellion among progressive voters.

What's unclear is Johnson's bottom line: It remains to be seen whether his reported insistence on the bill is an opening bargaining position, or a hard demand.

If all else fails, lawmakers, in theory, could employ procedural tactics to force a Ukraine vote, including a rarely used and politically complicated move called a discharge petition.

Meanwhile, the White House says the hour is getting late.

It says U.S. weapons helped Ukraine halt Russia's advances, helped reclaim more than half its lost territory and also revitalized the American industrial base as U.S. factories began producing replacements.

"Now it's up to Congress," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday. 

"Congress has to decide whether to continue to support the fight for freedom of Ukraine ... or whether Congress will ignore the lessons from history and let [Vladimir] Putin prevail.… [That would] hurt democracy and help dictators and we think that is not the right lesson of history."