Republican Joni Ernst promises greater scrutiny of US arms cash to Ukraine

Senator says control of the Capitol will lead to 'proper oversight' of $20 billion military aid

A soldier with the Ukrainian flag in Kalynivske, near Kherson that was retaken by Ukraine on Friday using military equipment supplied by the US. A Republican senator wants greater scrutiny of the $20 billion in aid given to Kyiv. Reuters
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America’s huge military aid budget to Ukraine will come under much greater scrutiny if the Republicans gain control of both chambers, a senator said.

With the race for the Senate exceptionally close, Senator Joni Ernst argued that “proper oversight of spending” would be enforced on the $20 billion in US military aid already given to Kyiv.

If the Republicans win the Senate she will be a key player on the Armed Services Committee, giving the Iowa senator greater control on funding.

Ms Ernst told the Policy Exchange think-tank in London that while she was a “very strong supporter of our actions in Ukraine” to push back the Russians, an arrangement was required to provide greater financial scrutiny.

“What most people worry about in the United States is the fact that we're authorising money to go to Ukraine,” she said. “The worry is not so much maybe the dollar figure, it's where the money is going.

“We need to make sure that we're accurately accounting for the dollars and how they're spent on military equipment, how they're spent on US aid and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.”

But, she said: “They need to push the Russians out of Ukraine and we should provide more of that, focusing on the lethality.”

There has been speculation that some Republicans might call to reduce spending on the conflict with more money diverted to deal with US domestic problems.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst is urging greater oversight of US spending in Ukraine. EPA

Last month, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said that if his party takes the majority in the chamber, it will not approve bottomless aid for Ukraine.

“People are going to be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank cheque to Ukraine,” Mr McCarthy said.

But Ms Ernst recognised that in a globalised world “we can't ignore threats that exist out there and to ignore them would not be wise”.

The senator, who visited Ukraine on an exchange in 1989, said that while some people were “not happy about a large amount of spending, they get it, the necessity to do so”.

With Republican Senate control she would also seek to “modernise our nuclear arsenal” with the large chunk of an extra $100 billion that is being sought for the US armed forces.

Republicans would also push for a “higher level of spending with our military”, particularly on US special forces which she said had been cut under President Joe Biden’s administration.

She criticised the White House for failing to increase military industrial output of missiles for Ukraine. “We need to ramp up production for munitions that are needed. We need to be ramping up production, and it has been very, very slow,”

She said that there would be direct engagement of US troops in Ukraine only “if we were targeted or a Nato country were targeted”.

“We don't want to engage where we don't need to or have to,” she said.

Updated: November 11, 2022, 3:58 PM