Lend-Lease Ukraine: US Revives WWII Anti-Hitler Policy to Defeat Putin
On April 7, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, a revival of FDR’s Lend-Lease policy enacted in March 1941 that helped win World War II. .
This new lend-lease agreement has yet to pass the US House of Representatives, which adjourned for a two-week recess. If confirmed, it will complement previous congressional support for Ukraine, which has already seen $1.7 billion in authorized military assistance since the start of the full-scale invasion of Russia on February 24.
The new lend-lease bill significantly enhances the existing lend-lease powers available to US President Joe Biden under the Arms Export Controls Act, while waiving several current requirements. It should ensure that urgently needed shipments of weapon systems, ammunition and other forms of military assistance get into Ukrainian hands faster and more transparently.
The bill was first conceived in the months before the outbreak of hostilities as a measure to deter further Russian attack. Since February 24, it has become an initiative to strengthen Ukraine’s combat capabilities while ensuring that NATO allies also receive the support they need in the new context of a major war at the heart from Europe.
The Lend-Lease bill has been bipartisan from the start. “We introduced this measure in January as part of a broad campaign to dissuade Russia from making a terrible mistake, which the Kremlin has now done. This horrific, unnecessary and unprovoked war against Ukraine must take end, with Ukraine prevailing against Russia’s aggression,” commented Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). “Our bipartisan bill streamlines the president’s ability to bolster Ukraine’s defenses, to defend innocent civilians and also to protect our frontline NATO allies who might become the target of a desperate Vladimir Putin.”
The Senate Lend-Lease vote came as the United States authorized $100 million in additional defense support for Ukraine. This latest weapons package will augment Ukraine’s Javelin anti-armour systems while also providing 100 Switchblade drones that will extend the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ ability to strike Russian military targets from a greater distance.
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The revival of Lend-Lease has enormous historical resonance as the 1941 initiative was a crucial factor enabling Allied victory in World War II. Stalin himself credited Lend-Lease, which benefited Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union, with winning the war.
As Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor as leader of the Soviet Union, wrote, “I would like to recall certain remarks that Stalin made and repeatedly repeated when we were talking freely among ourselves. He stated bluntly that if the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war. If we had to fight Nazi Germany one on one, we would not have been able to resist Germany’s pressure and we would have lost the war.
Lend-Lease was not used in the Korean War, where US regular forces fought. It was also never activated in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where the United States supported an irregular campaign against Soviet invasion.
After a hiatus of more than 75 years, Lend-Lease is now set to be revived to ensure Ukraine fends off the biggest attack on a European state since 1945. The revival is aimed at thwarting a dictator whose the explicit ambition to destroy Ukraine as a state and a nation echoes the criminal aims of Hitler and Stalin.
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Other democracies are taking similar approaches to countering the Kremlin. The European Union has committed 1.5 billion euros in military support since February 24, an unprecedented step for its 27 member states. Meanwhile, Slovakia sent an S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Ukraine, the first NATO ally to do so. The Czech Republic delivered T-72 tanks. Even distant Australia is sending 20 Bushmaster armored vehicles to Ukraine.
The shipments come in the wake of NATO’s latest ministerial meeting, where NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged allies to provide “light and heavy weapons” while acknowledging that the distinctions between offensive and defensive weapons “in fact have no real meaning in the kind of defensive war that Ukraine is waging.
The original Lend-Lease system was devised months before the United States entered World War II to allow countries attacked by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to defend themselves. Today, it is activated to help Ukraine defend itself against a Russian attack, as it has every right to do under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which confirms “the natural right of individual or collective self-defence in the event of an armed attack against a member of the United Nations. »
Thanks to Congressional support for Lend-Lease and similar measures taken by democracies around the world, Ukraine stands to benefit from potentially unlimited military support from the United States, as well as dozens of determined countries. to defeat Russia.
Roosevelt first called the United States the “arsenal of democracy” in a radio broadcast on December 29, 1940, more than three months before Lend-Lease became law. Today, the United States resumes that pivotal role, but this time as one of 30 NATO allies and many other partners taking similar steps to ensure Ukraine fights toward victoire.
Lend-Lease is a potential game-changer for the war in Ukraine. If confirmed in the next few weeks as expected, he should give Ukraine defenders joy as they prepare to fight new battles against a formidable but increasingly vulnerable opponent.
Chris Alexander is a Distinguished Fellow of the Canadian International Council and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. He served as Canada’s Deputy Head of Mission in Moscow, Parliamentary Secretary of National Defense and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
The opinions expressed in UkraineAlert are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Atlantic Council, its staff or its supporters.
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