How Joe Biden's Lend-Lease for Ukraine Could Turn the Tide of War

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a measure on Wednesday that could potentially turn the tide of the war between Russia and Ukraine in Ukraine's favor.

Senators passed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 that will grant President Joe Biden more authority to provide the Ukrainian government with defensive equipment and allow him to overcome bureaucratic barriers.

The bill is designed to remove obstacles to providing military equipment to Ukraine and, if passed by the House of Representatives and signed by Biden, it would effectively allow the U.S. to gift equipment to Ukraine, while technically requiring payment at a later date.

That could be a major help to the country as military equipment could essentially be supplied free of charge for the duration of the conflict.

During World War II, the Lend-Lease program was an operation providing much-needed military aid to U.S. allies, including the U.K., the then Soviet Union and the then Republic of China. Many historians believe it played a decisive role in supporting the Allies.

The program helped the U.K. to continue fighting against Nazi Germany as the country faced Adolf Hitler's forces alone following the fall of France in 1940. The original Lend-Lease legislation was passed in March, 1941 and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The new bill, if enacted, could see the U.S. government "lend" or "lease" supplies to Ukraine to defend against the Russian invasion. Biden could fulfil the role played by Roosevelt in the 1940s and provide even more supplies to Ukraine.

The U.S. Congress has already approved $14 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine but a new Lend-Lease law could see an even greater flow of military aid to the country.

Among the supplies the U.S. and its allies have already provided are Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who is one of the sponsors of the legislation, issued a statement following its passage in the Senate on Wednesday outlining what the law could potentially achieve.

"As the war in Ukraine unfolds, delivering military aid as quickly as possible is pivotal for Ukraine's ability to defend itself against Putin's unprovoked attacks. The Kremlin is committing horrific assaults throughout the nation on civilian infrastructure and targeting innocent men, women and children," Shaheen said.

"As the world bears witness to the most serious security threat to Europe and our global stability since World War II, this legislation to speed up the process of moving military equipment to the frontlines couldn't be more urgent," she added.

The senator's website noted that the law would not create a new program but would "enhance" President Biden's authority under the the Arms Export Control Act in order to "expedite the delivery of defense articles to Ukraine."

The Ukrainian government has accused Russian forces of committing war crimes and warned that Russia will soon launch a major offensive in the Donbas region in the east of the country. With heavy fighting expected, military equipment may well prove essential.

Shaheen has urged the House to pass the Lend-Lease legislation but it is not clear if lawmakers will take up the bill before both chambers rise for a two-week recess on Thursday.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the Senate approving the bill in a tweet on Thursday and urged the House to pass the legislation.

"Grateful to the U.S. Senate for passing the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act," Kuleba said. "Important first step towards a lend-lease program to expedite the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine. Looking forward to its swift passage in the House and signing by the U.S. President."

Russia may have its own supply issues amid reports that the country has lost a large number of tanks during the conflict. Oryx, a team of weapons trackers, said that Russia had lost 427 tanks, drawing on images and videos shared online.

By contrast, Ukraine had reportedly lost more than 90 tanks. Unlike Ukraine, Russia has not received a flood of military aid from abroad.

Russia is also facing questions about servicing its national debt after the U.S. Treasury prevented the nation from making recent repayments using funds held in U.S.-based institutions.

Though Russia has access to other reserves sufficient to pay its debts, using those funds would potentially mean less was available for other forms of expenditure, including the war.

Newsweek has asked the White House for comment.

Biden Delivers Remarks About COVID-19
U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on Covid-19 in the United States in the South Court Auditorium on March 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Senate has unanimously passed Lend-Lease legislation that would allow Biden to expedite defense supplies to Ukraine. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images