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Ukraine military aid: How much has the West provided?

Frank Hofmann
February 21, 2023

Research by a German think tank reveals that US, EU and German aid to Kyiv pales in comparison to past conflicts. Just how much have they given to support the country Russia invaded almost 12 months ago?

A person can be seen in the distance amid rubble and a cloud of dust
The United States has been Ukraine's top financial supporter since the start of the warImage: AP/dpa/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden announced plans Monday which will see arms worth $500 million (€468 million) delivered to Ukraine. Speaking during his recent visit to Kyiv, Biden added that Washington will supply artillery ammunition and extra howitzers, along with more shoulder-mounted armor-piercing Javelin missile systems.

The announcement during Biden's highly symbolic visit just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine fits a recent analysis looking at the financial aspects of Kyiv-bound aid published by German-based economic think tank, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW). 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greets his US counterpart Joe Biden in Kyiv on 20 February, 2023
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed his US counterpart Joe Biden in Kyiv on MondayImage: Dimitar Dillkoff/AFP

"The Americans are leading the way when it comes to supporting Ukraine," said IfW economist Christoph Trebesch, who oversees the institute's Ukraine Support Tracker. "European reluctance to provide support during the first year of the war in Ukraine is a remarkable phenomenon, especially since financial resources can be mobilized so quickly," Trebesch added, referring to financial payments made by EU states to bolster Ukraine's state budget. The country's economic output plunged by around 40% following Moscow's move to invade Ukraine in February 2022.

IfW economists use publicly available sources to calculate the overall worth of direct financial aid and humanitarian support, in addition to the value of Ukraine-bound weapon deliveries. Ordnance shipments from national stockpiles, such as those from Germany's armed forces, are determined based on their open market valuation.

Limited German aid sent to Ukraine

Comparing data from the last published Ukraine Support Tracker update from December 2022, IfW researchers found the US had pledged an additional €37 billion ($39 billion), thereby once again surpassing contributions made by the EU and its member states. Both pledged and delivered aid from Washington now totals €73.1 billion, compared with the EU's figure of €54.9 billion.

In total, €128 billion has been provided, or promised, as aid for Ukraine. Notably, the US has gifted twice the amount of the entire EU, followed by the UK and Germany. 

Trebesch and his colleagues included for the first time in their report alternative forms of aid pledged by the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, an alliance of over 50 states led by the US. "In total, aid offered to Ukraine is typically only a fraction of what governments spend on cushioning the fallout of the crisis within their own countries," the analysis reads. "Germany alone has announced over €250 billion in subsidies since January 2022 in a bid to help cushion the rise in energy prices for both private consumers and businesses."

Bilateral aid provided by Germany to Ukraine now totals €6.15 billion, the researchers said. In comparison, they added, the German government spent €5.56 billion alone on subsidizing fuel and offering residents heavily discounted public transportation tickets — measures which were introduced last summer to counteract spiking petrol prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Several tanks can be seen on a road with soldiers looking out the top hatch
After long deliberations, Germany recently gave the go-ahead for the delivery of Leopard tanksImage: CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP

IfW researchers did not take into account the planned delivery of Western tanks to Ukraine in their calculations — such as the Leopard 2 consignment scheduled for this March. That was due in part to unclear commitments made by European nations currently in possession of the German-built tanks. The IfW researchers did, however, factor in the $100 billion the US House of Representatives flagged last summer for training Ukrainian pilots to use Western fighter jets. 

Aid to Ukraine pales in comparison to past wars

IfW economists also compared Western aid to Ukraine in the first 12 months of the conflict with Western spending in previous wars. In terms of gross domestic product, for example, Germany spent three times more to defend Kuwait during the 1990-91 Gulf War. After Iraq invaded its neighbor, Kuwait, Germany — which did not directly participate militarily in the Operation Desert Storm offensive — supplied funding to the US which ultimately helped liberate the attacked Gulf nation. Comparatively, Washington spent nearly 1% of GDP on the Gulf War, compared to less than 0.4% so far for Ukraine.

Annual military spending by the US in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2010 was three times higher than what Washington has spent to date defending Ukraine. However, unlike Ukraine, the US also sent ground troops to Afghanistan and the Middle East, something which continued for years and at great cost.

MSC ends with calls for fast Ukraine support

IfW scholars also found that supplied aid and promised support earmarked for Ukraine plummeted from more than €20 billion in May last year to just over €5 billion in June.

Large-scale support only resumed in November, after Ukraine liberated key regions in the east and south of the country. Following these battlefield successes, the EU pledged to further contribute aid to Kyiv going forward into 2023, with the US House of Representatives also voting in December to commit €37 billion in military aid. 

Arguably, it is that aid package from which President Biden approved €500 million in arms shipments for Ukraine during his visit to Kyiv earlier this week, all while insisting US "support for Ukraine will not waver."

This article was translated from German.

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