The staggering sums behind America's financial support to Ukraine

A year after Russia's invasion, the US has sent billions of dollars and thousands of weapons for Kyiv's defence

US soldiers operating an Abrams tank participate in a military exercise with UK soldiers in Latvia in 2018. EPA
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As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, US President Joe Biden and Congress continue to deliver messages assuring Kyiv of Washington's long-standing commitment — one that has been marked by tens of billions of dollars in aid.

When President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Congress in December 2022, he characterised his country's defence against Russia as an investment in US interests — global security and democracy. A democratic Ukraine, he said, is of paramount importance for America.

It is a message that resonated with US politicians even before the historic visit, and one they responded to by approving $45 billion in financial and military aid.

Since January 24, 2022, the US has committed $78 billion in humanitarian, financial and military assistance to Ukraine, data from the Kiel Institute's Ukraine Support Tracker shows, far outweighing the financial response of the rest of the world.

By comparison, the EU has committed $37.37 billion, though the vast majority of that sum ($32.33 billion) comes in the form of financial assistance.

Military and financial commitments to Ukraine grew throughout the year, data from IF-Kiel shows, in response to the prolonged war.

“The Americans are setting the pace in supporting Ukraine,” said Christoph Trebesch, head of the team producing the Ukraine Support Tracker and research centre director at the Kiel Institute.

“The Europeans' hesitancy in the first year of the war is a remarkable phenomenon, especially since financial resources can be quickly mobilised.”

Nowhere is the disproportionate amount of American aid more evident than when it comes to military aid.

Of the $78 billion the US has provided to Ukraine, more than half ($47.32 billion) has come in the form of military assistance.

That aid — announced in a string of packages ranging from $50 million to $2.8 billion — has come with a list of weapons, machinery, ammunition and other military gear the US has supplied to Ukraine.

As Congress responded to Mr Zelenskyy's requests for an increase in financial support, so, too, has Mr Biden mostly acceded to his requests for weapons.

Ukrainian soldiers are now equipped with thousands of drones, tactical vehicles, grenade launchers, High Mobility Rocket Systems (Himars), howitzers, laser-guided rocket systems, radar systems, ammunition and more.

The sizes of the military packages have increased as the war has dragged on, most notably with the inclusion of 31 M1 Abrams tanks that were part of a $400 million Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has hailed the Himars as particularly effective against curtailing Russian forces.

These weapons have mostly been provided in the form of presidential drawdowns, which allow for supplies to be speedily delivered from Pentagon stocks.

What sending western tanks to Ukraine will mean

What sending western tanks to Ukraine will mean

Others, like the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb, are still months away from seeing the battlefield.

In the days before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the White House feared that Kyiv would fall within days.

A year later, there appears to be no end in sight to the war. The US and allies continue to pour relief into Ukraine, and Mr Zelenskyy must now convince leaders to continue their investment in the form of fighter jets.

For now at least, the answer to that request is “no”, Mr Biden said. But the US has not ruled it out altogether and Britain has appeared more willing.

And questions linger as to how long the US will have the resolve or ability to continue arming Ukraine.

America's own military preparedness could be compromised if the US continues to deplete its domestic weapons stockpiles, a senior adviser with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies wrote.

The newly seated Republican-controlled House of Representatives adds further complications to potential long-term aid, with House leadership sceptical of writing a “blank cheque” the way the previous session of Congress did.

Still, Mr Biden made his position clear on where the US stands when he announced a new $460 million security package during a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday.

Walking the streets of the capital with Mr Zelenskyy beside him and air raid sirens blaring in the background, Mr Biden sent the message that America's commitment to Ukraine will continue under his administration.

Updated: February 23, 2023, 3:00 PM