Ukrainian forces are facing a critical shortage of ammunition in their ongoing conflict with Russia. This shortfall, according to Celeste Wallander, a senior Pentagon official, is providing Russia with an opportunity to exploit weaknesses in Kyiv’s military.
The U.S., traditionally a significant supplier of military aid to Ukraine, has been unable to continue its support at previous levels due to Congress’s failure to pass President Biden’s emergency funding request.
Biden’s funding request and Congressional stalemate
As of December, U.S. military assistance has dried up, leaving Ukrainian units lacking essential ammunition stocks.
In October, President Biden requested nearly $61.5 billion to support Ukraine and replenish U.S. stocks.
However, due to a deadlock in Congress over new U.S. border security policies, this crucial funding has not been approved.
Wallander emphasized the importance of this funding, stating, “That is one of the reasons we have been focusing on the need to answer Congress’s questions so that they are able to move forward on a decision to pass a supplemental.”
Impact of inconsistent aid and Ukraine’s needs
The last U.S. weapons package, announced on December 27, included $250 million in military aid.
The change in the pace and volume of U.S. aid has significantly impacted Ukraine’s military operations.
Wallander noted that beyond ammunition, Ukraine urgently needs artillery shells and interceptors to counter Russian drones and missiles.
Russia, recognizing Ukraine’s vulnerability, has increased missile and drone attacks.
Ukraine defense contact group meeting and lack of new assistance
Wallander described this as an attempt to overwhelm Ukrainian defense capabilities and deplete their already limited resources.
She added, “They’ve not succeeded so far. The Ukrainians have a lot of experience over the last two years in how to cope with these kinds of Russian assaults.”
The U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which usually announces major assistance packages after meetings, met virtually without revealing new aid due to the stalled supplemental request in Congress.
This absence of new assistance underscores the significant challenges Ukraine faces without continued support.
Pentagon’s funding shortfall halts weapon deliveries and support to Ukraine
Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder highlighted the consequences of the funding gap, stating that the Pentagon had to “pause” sending additional weapons from U.S. inventories, considering the implications for American military readiness.
“This, of course, prevents us from meeting Ukraine’s most urgent battlefield needs to include things like artillery rounds, anti-tank weapons, air defense interceptors,” Ryder explained.
The lack of additional funding also hinders the Department of Defense’s ability to provide Ukraine with equipment for medium- and longer-term needs and maintain the U.S.-supplied systems.