US Senate Revives Lend-Lease Act

The war in Ukraine has seen considerable losses on both sides with confirmed Russian equipment losses passing 2,500 assets. Figures for Ukrainian losses are less clear but likely to be significant, such is the nature of a high intensity ground conflict. Ukraine’s Armed Forces are much smaller compared to their Russian foes, however, the steady stream of supplies pours from many directions into the country, providing Ukraine with much-needed ammunition, small arms, anti-air and anti-armor weapons and protective equipment. Heavier equipment, however, like tanks, IFVs, artillery pieces, and long-range anti-air systems are crucial to repel the enemy.

The United States and NATO actively support Ukrainian troops with SIGINT operations and equipment deliveries, but legal frameworks and bureaucracy slow the transfer of supplies. In order to combat unnecessary procedures which slow the transfer of aid, the US Senate has unanimously voted to revive the Lend-Lease Act, which in theory enables the US government to expedite weapons transfers.

The Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 was introduced to the Senate by Senator John Cornyn on 19 January, before the war began, and was passed on a voice vote on 6 April. It reads:

“To provide enhanced authority for the President to enter into agreements with the Government of Ukraine to lend or lease defense articles to that Government to protect civilian populations in Ukraine from Russian military invasion, and for other purposes. …the President may authorize the United States Government to lend or lease defense articles to the Government of Ukraine or to governments of Eastern European countries impacted by the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine to help bolster those countries’ defense capabilities and protect their civilian populations from potential invasion or ongoing aggression by the armed forces of the Government of the Russian Federation.”

The original Lend-Lease Act, also known as An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States, was introduced in March 1941 in order to directly support countries fighting with Nazi Germany and Japan with necessary materials, weapons, vehicles, and gear, amid the US’ isolationist stance. However, the Lend-Lease Act turned into one of the key factors that allowed the Allies to win the war. For example, the Red Army which in 1942 was in a desperate condition and held out mainly due to the Wehrmacht’s supply issues, found deliveries of American steel, oil, and industrial machinery essential in enabling production of vitsl war materials, equipment and weapons such as the T-34 tank.

Interestingly the new act opens the door to allied Eastern European nations also requesting equipment through the act’s provisions. Before the act is signed by President Biden, however, it has to be approved by the House of Representatives. This may be a difficult process due to both partisan politics and a scheduled two-week recess of both chambers.