The Pentagon is mulling workarounds to arm Ukraine as the country faces severe ammunition and artillery shortages amid recent Russian advances. But the department is limited in its ability to fill the gap given President Joe Biden’s funding request for additional Ukraine military aid remains stalled in Congress.

One stopgap option would transfer additional weapons from U.S. stocks without funding to replenish that equipment. Another option uses the Excess Defense Articles program to send U.S. equipment to third-party countries that then send older weapons to Kyiv.

The European Union is also stepping up its assistance. It passed $54 billion in economic support for Ukraine after Hungary dropped its opposition.

But none of these stopgap measures to staunch the bleeding come close to the influx of arms for Kyiv that Congress could unlock if it passes the $95 billion foreign aid bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

“The consequence of not doing so is likely Ukraine’s defeat,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told Defense News last week after returning from a congressional delegation to Europe. “There is not a plan B there. There’s certainly more that Europe could do, but there are certain weapons systems that only the United States can provide and maintain. And there is a hard limit to the amount of resources Europe can put in if the United States chooses to leave the coalition.”

Ukrainian officials also attributed Russia’s recent conquest of Avdiivka to the lack of available weaponry when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., led a congressional delegation to the war-torn country last week.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has refused to hold a vote on the foreign aid bill, which includes $48.3 billion in additional military assistance for Ukraine. The Senate passed the bill 70-29 earlier this month over objections from former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee.

Congress passed a cumulative $113 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine after Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, but has not provided additional funding since December 2022.

Biden hosted congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday, where he joined Democrats and outgoing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in pushing Johnson to pass the bill.

In the meantime, the Pentagon is weighing whether it should use roughly $4 billion left of drawdown authority to continue arming Ukraine from U.S. weapons stockpiles, even though it does not have the money to replenish those inventories without the foreign aid bill, CNN reported Wednesday.

The Pentagon did not directly address deliberations about transferring additional weapons without replenishment funding.

“The [Defense Department] continues to urge Congress to pass a supplemental to support Ukraine in its time of need and to replenish our stocks,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Garron Garn told Defense News in a statement.

The Pentagon used its last $1 billion in Ukraine replenishment funding to backfill U.S. stockpiles in December, with the White House noting that would be the last remaining assistance, absent congressional action.

“At issue here again is the question of impacting our own readiness, as a nation, and the responsibilities that we have,” Pentagon press secretary Gen. Patrick Ryder said last month. “While we do have that $4.2 billion in authority, we don’t have the funds available to replenish those stocks, should we expend that. And with no timeline in sight, we have to make those hard decisions.”

The remaining $4.2 billion in Ukraine transfer authority stems from an accounting error the Pentagon made last year. The error prompted Pentagon Inspector General Robert Storch to announce an audit of the valuation of weapons sent to Ukraine.

Excess Defense Articles

Another, more limited option involves third-party countries transferring Soviet-era equipment to Ukraine in exchange for more U.S. weapons through the Pentagon’s Excess Defense Articles program. The program also allows the U.S. to send equipment that helps countries transition away from Russian arms.

“The United States is providing security assistance to partners such as Ecuador and Zambia to help them transition off Russian equipment, but there’s more we can and must do,” the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, Jessica Lewis, said in December.

Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa said in January that the U.S. would send $200 million in refurbished weapons to help fight cartels in exchange for “scrap” equipment. But Noboa backtracked last week after Russia imposed a ban on Ecuadorian banana and clove imports.

“To our surprise, the United States has publicly stated that this equipment will be used in the armed conflict in Ukraine, and we do not want to be part of it,” Noboa said.

The Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported in January that the U.S. is providing Greece with equipment through the Excess Defense Articles program, including two C-130H aircraft, three Protector-class ships and 60 Bradley armored fighting vehicles.

“Greece has provided substantial military assistance to Ukraine, including Soviet-era BMP infantry fighting vehicles, artillery and small arms,” the U.S. State Department told Defense News. “We thank the government of Greece for its generosity and encourage additional donations, in the future.”

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees the Excess Defense Articles program, has not updated the public list of transfers since 2020, despite a congressional requirement that it do so. As such, it’s unclear what other countries are receiving U.S. weapons through the program.

The agency told Defense News it expects to update the list within “several weeks” but did not explain why updates stopped in 2020.

Noah Robertson contributed to this report.

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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