Ukraine Situation Report: U.S. Funding Almost “Exhausted”

Though Ukraine says it is in desperate need of military equipment from the U.S. and allies, the White House says it has only enough money left for one more aid package, to be announced this week.

After that, “we will have no more replenishment authority available to us,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, including from The War Zone, Monday.

Earlier in the day, Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord notified Congress that the Defense Department intends to transfer just over $1 billion from various appropriation accounts to replace equipment and services provided to Ukraine.

“Once these funds are obligated, the Department will have exhausted the funding available to us for security assistance to Ukraine,” McCord warned.

Both Kirby and McCord urged Congress to pass a $106 billion supplemental national security spending bill that includes $61 billion in military aid for Ukraine. The Biden Administration’s supplemental spending request also includes military aid for Israel, funds to boost competition with China in the Indo-Pacific, as well as security along the U.S. border with Mexico. It has been held up over wrangling with Republicans on additional security for the U.S. southern border. 

“In just over the last 24 hours, dozens of drones and at least one cruise missile hit Ukrainian cities, in basically what’s become a nightly barrage, and of course it’s all happening in the context of Russian troops trying to put together a ground offensive in eastern Ukraine,” Kirby said.

That hasn’t been “enormously successful,” Kirby added, because “the Ukrainians are well armed and well resourced and are able to defend against these offensive moves. But Ukraine still needs our help. And it’s well past time for Congress to act and stand up for freedom and democracy and in defense of our own national security interests, which are very much at play here.”

Beyond just helping Ukraine, Kirby noted that a large portion of the funds are spent on U.S.-made weapons.

The nearly $45 billion in military aid provided to Ukraine by the Biden administration so far has helped “to jumpstart and to expand production lines in dozens of states across the country, where weapons and equipment of all manner and type can be produced and of course for American stocks to replenish and replace what we are sending to Ukraine,” said Kirby. It “supports good-paying American jobs in the process and also is helping strengthen the production lines and strengthen our relationship with our defense industry across the country.”

Rows of incomplete 155mm shells wait for the next step in production at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant. (Photo by Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Neither Kirby nor McCord said what would be in the next package or how much value it would have and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. We will update this story if more details are provided.

As Ukraine struggles to gain traction in a sputtering counteroffensive while Russia is beginning to see momentum in its drives in Donetsk and Kharkiv oblast, U.S. officials have warned that Kyiv will not survive long against Russia without help.

Should the spigot be cut off by the U.S. and NATO, one U.S. official told CNN last week that Ukraine could hold off Russia for months, with a worst-case scenario of a significant setback or even defeat by the summer.

“There is no guarantee of success with us, but they are certain to fail without us,” a senior US military official told the network.

Negotiations over the spending bill between the White House and Republicans are ongoing, but it is unlikely to be finished by the end of the year. That’s bad news for Ukraine, which doesn’t have time on its side.

Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

The battlefield remains generally frozen, both in terms of weather and movement, but Russia is gaining an edge, especially in Donetsk Oblast. Here are some key takeaways from the latest Institute for the Study of War assessment:

  • A combination of artillery ammunition shortages and delays in the provision of Western security assistance is likely causing Ukrainian forces to husband materiel and may delay future Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
  • Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi declined to comment on recent Western reporting about Ukrainian counteroffensive and Russian offensive plans for 2024.
  • Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated on December 18 that Russian forces have enough drones to launch daily strikes against Ukraine from different directions.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and made a confirmed advance southwest of Donetsk City.
  • Former Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) People’s Militia Spokesperson Eduard Basurin claimed that more than 25,000 Russian personnel are serving with Cossack volunteer formations in Ukraine as of December 18.

The weather is not helping Ukraine’s efforts. Troops in the video below are seen trying to dig out their vehicles from thick, oozing mud in the snow.

The German Bundeswehr has commissioned arms maker Rheinmetall to supply several tens of thousands shells of various types for the Ukrainian armed forces. The order is worth a three-digit million euro amount, the company said in a statement. Delivery, which is part of a large-scale agreement, is scheduled for the course of 2025.

Ukrainian Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov says sees no alternative to conducting new waves of mobilization for the Armed Forces.

“Everyone who wanted or was ready to fight either found themselves in various units of the Armed Forces or joined (the Armed Forces) in the first half of the year,” Budanov said during a panel discussion. “For objective reasons, not many of those people remain. This is a fact that needs to be understood and recognized. With such volumes, no recruiting can cover our needs without mobilization. It’s a similar problem to ammunition because the volumes are enormous. In total, the Armed Forces of Ukraine now comprise (the number is somewhat conditional because we approach it as classified) one million one hundred thousand people. No recruiting can cover such volumes. Only mobilization can.”

On the night of December 17, the Security Services of Ukraine and the Armed Forces of Ukraine unleashed a drone attack on the Morozovsk airfield in Russia’s Rostov Oblast, home of the 559th bomber aviation regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces.

“There were up to 20 SU-34 aircraft at the airport at the time of the attack,” the Ukrainian USAID-funded Babel news outlet reported. “Three radar stations and other equipment were also located on the territory of the airfield.”

The Ministry of Defense of Russia announced the downing of 33 drones. Rostov Oblast Governor Vasily Golubev said on Telegram that “air defense forces repelled a massive attack by aircraft-type drones on the territory of the Rostov region in the area of ​​Morozovsk and Kamensk. Most of the drones were destroyed. There are no casualties.”

Babel said its sources say the drones “inflicted significant damage on the enemyʼs equipment.”

The War Zone cannot independently verify those claims.

Russia continues to pound Ukrainian forces who have made inroads across the Dnipro River in Russian-occupied Kherson Oblast. Video has emerged on social media claiming to show bombardment by a FAB-1500M-54 bomb kitted out with the UMPK, or Unifitsirovannyi Modul Planirovaniya i Korrektsii, meaning unified gliding and correction module. You can read more about that in our story here.

The German DW news outlet was recently given a tour of a Gyurza-M class armored gunboat patrolling the Dnipro River around Kyiv.

Designed for riverine and littoral missions, they have a crew of five and are armed with BM-5M.01 Katran-M remote-controlled module guns fore and aft. Each turret is fitted with 30 mm ZTM-1 automatic cannons. The boats also carry a 30mm grenade launcher and 7.62mm machine guns, as well as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). They can also carry anti-armor ‘Barrier’ guided missiles. 

And finally, in the spirit of the seasons, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry showcased a “gift” for the Russians.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard’s work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.