Lawmakers question Pentagon on Ukraine funds, signaling fresh concerns

By | March 1, 2023

The New York Times reports:

Republicans in Congress sharply questioned senior Pentagon officials on Tuesday about the tens of billions of dollars in military and other aid the United States has sent to Ukraine, casting fresh doubt on whether they would embrace future spending as Democrats pleaded for a cleareyed assessment of how much more money would be needed.

The exchanges at two House committee hearings, coming just days after the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, highlighted how concerns about the high cost of sending weapons to Kyiv have intensified on Capitol Hill. The growing doubts have threatened what has been a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of the aid, and could make it more difficult for the Biden administration to win congressional approval of funds to replenish its military assistance accounts. The funding inflection point could come as soon as this summer, months earlier than previously expected.

The hearings also illustrated how members of both parties, despite expressing confidence that a majority in Congress remains committed to supporting Ukraine, are concerned that a determined minority — including right-wing Republicans who eschew U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts and liberal antiwar Democrats — may weaken that resolve if the war continues to drag on.

“We’re all concerned about accountability,” Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, who has supported Ukraine funding ventures in the past, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. “Please, let’s get this publicized so the American people can trust what the expenditures are.”

Tensions were on display Tuesday as Representative Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican and an outspoken critic of funding for Ukraine, quizzed a top Defense Department official about allegations of lost and diverted weapons, whistle-blowers and fraud.

“Accountability of the weapons shipped in is absolutely paramount, especially the most sensitive weapons, to ensure they are being used for their intended purposes and not diverted for nefarious purposes,” Mr. Clyde told Robert P. Storch, the Pentagon’s inspector general.

Mr. Storch and other Pentagon officials testified that there had been no substantiated instances of sensitive weapons being diverted for improper purposes, but his statements did not silence the critics. [Continue reading…]

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