Reevaluation*


*Editor’s note: On March 4, 2022, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

Military analyst Andrei Frolov on why the Americans need to manipulate the value of weapons supplied to Ukraine

On May 18, Reuters reported that the Pentagon had overestimated the value of military aid supplied to Ukraine. Thus, the $48 billion aid package approved in December 2022 was overvalued by an impressive $3 billion.

By May 15, $42 billion of this package had been spent, according to official figures. However, given the overvaluation, we can assume that the actual amount spent now stands at $39 billion. In addition, the new $375 million military aid package announced by President Joe Biden at the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima should be added to the total spent so far.

According to the official version, the discrepancy was caused by the overvaluation of the cost of the delivered weapons and ammunition compared to the actual figures. Allegedly, in its accounting, the Pentagon used replacement cost to value the weapons rather than the weaponry’s current value, including depreciation.

This news caused heated discussions not only among experts but also among American lawmakers. Politico reported that legislators in Congress were “furious” with these revelations, and the dissatisfaction was caused not so much by the discrepancy but by the fact that the Pentagon announced it two months after it was first discovered. That is, the Pentagon already knew about the discrepancy when the January-March 2023 military aid was being delivered to Ukraine.

So, let’s figure out what could have happened, because it’s hard to believe in the accidental nature of such a significant variation (almost 10% of the value of actual deliveries). There are several plausible scenarios, and they are not mutually exclusive.

The first scenario is, oddly enough, the simplest one, associated with a simple accounting error. However, it is debatable given the fact that the discrepancy amounted to $3 billion, which means that it was “accrued” over several deliveries of military aid. Therefore, given the high degree of automation of all American military logistics, it’s unlikely that a simple accounting error would not have been discovered much earlier.

The second scenario is somewhat criminal in nature, as we cannot rule out that there have been numerous thefts of weapons intended for Ukraine. Therefore, it’s possible that those weapons either remained in the U.S. or were sent to third countries, arming criminal or terrorist groups. It’s no secret that weapons from among those supplied to Ukraine by NATO regularly appear not only on the dark web but also in the hands of various criminals. Now, however, Americans themselves may turn out to be their supplier, not the Ukrainian army. Accordingly, the $3 billion discrepancy was caused artificially to hide large-scale theft.

This version echoes the 1980s “Iran-Contra” scandal, when weapons were illegally shipped to Iran, which was under sanctions, and the proceeds from those exports were used to finance the Nicaraguan opposition. In fact, it cannot be ruled out that the U.S. has other clients to whom supplying arms is illegal, meaning that the Ukrainian aid packages could be used to circumvent the ban.

Finally, there is the most likely version. As noted above, in December 2022, Congress approved a $48 billion Ukraine military aid package, of which only $6 billion remained by mid-May, meaning that the U.S. could run out of funding for Ukraine aid by the summer. However, the prospects for approval of the new aid package remain unclear, both in terms of timing and volume, especially considering the negotiations between Republicans and Democrats concerning the issue of raising the national debt ceiling. Against this background, Ukrainian supplies, although important, are clearly of secondary importance to the domestic political situation in the U.S.

That is why those who support maintaining and increasing military aid to Ukraine, such as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, made an ingenious decision to artificially underestimate the cost of already delivered arms, thus increasing the remaining balance of the package to a hefty $9 billion, which may well be enough to cover Ukraine’s needs until the fall. And by that time, the issue of the national debt will be resolved, and it will be possible to get the lawmakers to approve a new aid package.

It’s possible that the additional $3 billion may now be used to cover the exports of F-16s to Ukraine. Discussions about supplying Ukraine with these fighter jets just about coincided with the news on the overvaluation of the already-delivered military aid.

Thus, we are faced with a rather unusual move by the American administration, which, while technically complying with democratic procedure and following the law, in practice is violating federal spending rules to increase the amount of actual military aid to Ukraine. It’s hard to say to what extent such a situation may occur again, but it’s clear that the U.S. has set a precedent. Therefore, we will likely witness some new and original manipulation to allow the continued supply of American weapons to Ukraine at a convenient pace for the White House and the Pentagon.

In any case, this story is a severe reputational blow to the Biden administration and Pentagon officials, who are unable or unwilling to sort out this situation, and are thus resorting to overt abuses of the rules without much concern about possible consequences. Indeed, for now, there have been no attempts to find those responsible for this discrepancy.

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About Nikita Gubankov 102 Articles
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, I've recently graduated from University College London, UK, with an MSc in Translation and Technology. My interests include history, current affairs and languages. I'm currently working full-time as an account executive in a translation and localization agency, but I'm also a keen translator from English into Russian and vice-versa, as well as Spanish into English.

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