Biden ‘Depleted’ Israeli Weapons to Back Ukraine: Congressman
Before Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Middle Eastern Jews, the Biden administration had weakened Israeli defenses by diverting hundreds of thousands of artillery shells out of Israel to support the war in Ukraine. A Republican congressman says it is “unclear” Biden’s actions fully complied with U.S. law.
The New York Times revealed in January that the Biden administration had begun transferring “hundreds of thousands” of 155-millimeter artillery shells from the War Reserve Stocks for Allies–Israel (WRSA-I) to Ukraine. The military stockpiles pre-positioned weapons, as well as critical equipment and supplies, in strategic locations “for rapid response in a global operation,” the Defense Department notes, but these weapons may also be given to a host nation — or transferred to another. “It’s their ammunition, and they don’t really need our permission to take it,” said one Israeli official. Some in Tel Aviv felt helpless to prevent the Democratic president from making a strategic decision that put their security at risk. “We can’t really say no without creating a big crisis with the Biden administration,” stated a former senior Israeli official.
But the U.S. Congress, which has oversight over the munitions cache, can ask how the Biden administration’s foreign policy priorities have impacted Israeli defense, not to mention U.S. security. “As Congress is slated to consider legislation in support of Israel’s defense, it is important for Congress to be fully informed as to what munitions are available in WRSA-I and the extent to which the Biden administration has depleted this stockpile to support Ukraine’s war effort,” wrote Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) in a letter to the Biden administration last Thursday. Roy requested that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin provide a full “inventory assessment of United States defense articles currently located” in WRSA-I, either publicly or in a classified hearing, due to the sensitive nature of the report.
Roy is not the only one asking the Biden administration to account for its stewardship of U.S. munitions; federal law (10 U.S. Code § 2229a) mandates that the Pentagon provides a “list of major end items of equipment drawn from the prepositioned stocks during [each] fiscal year and a description of how that equipment was used and whether it was returned to the stocks after being used.” When the administration submits its budget, it must also detail “any strategic plans affected by changes to the levels” of the stockpiles “and a description of any action taken to mitigate any risk that such changes may create.”
But Roy found it “unclear whether this reporting requirement has been consistently applied” to WRSA-I.
Numerous politicians in the Capitol have complained the Biden administration has refused to provide meaningful details about any aspect of its foreign policy. When Biden administration officials testify before Congress about Ukraine, “They don’t give you any kind of substance” about “the war’s prosecution or alleged progress,” Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told Laura Ingraham on Wednesday, shortly after Defense Secretary Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Biden officials asked senators to pass a $68.3 billion “emergency” bill appropriating $10.6 billion for Israel — and $44.4 billion for Ukraine. In all, Biden has asked Congress for an “unprecedented” $106 billion package granting $14.3 billion to Israel, $61.4 billion to Ukraine, $9.1 billion in “humanitarian” aid bound largely for Hamas-controlled Gaza, and $7.4 billion for the Indo-Pacific region. It also includes $14 billion often described as “border defense” but that critics point out will expedite the processing and release of illegal immigrants into the interior of the United States.
Much of that aid seems destined to be misappropriated. Senate Republicans say Hamas will steal any humanitarian aid intended for Palestinian civilians. “This is not speculation — just last week, we saw reports that Hamas stole fuel and medical equipment from UNRWA, which the organization initially admitted but then subsequently denied. UNICEF medical kits were even found on the bodies of Hamas terrorists from the horrific October 7th attack,” wrote Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and numerous colleagues on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the extent of Ukraine’s theft of U.S. aid has come to light. “People are stealing like there’s no tomorrow,” a top Zelensky aide told Time magazine, which reported “corruption has grown rife” within the government.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) has agreed to bring up aid for Israel separately from Biden’s requested Ukrainian aid package, which is 4.3 times larger. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he is “conceptually” in “the same place” as Biden and his Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), opposing Speaker Johnson’s plan to split up the aid package. Yet McConnell has said “providing assistance for Ukrainians to defeat the Russians, that’s the number one priority of the United States right now, according to most Republicans.”
The House proposal would offset the $14.3 billion in Israeli aid by cutting an equivalent amount of money from the IRS budget. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre accused the measure of “[t]hreatening to undermine American national security unless House Republicans can help the wealthy and big corporations cheat on their taxes” and undermining “the source of funding for Israel’s self-defense.”
The Biden administration has repeatedly shown its preference for the war in Ukraine over Israel. While Joe Biden promised to stand with Ukraine “today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes,” he has already pressed Israel for a humanitarian “pause” in retaliating against Hamas.
Critics say Biden is waging “one of the most ruthlessly effective proxy wars in modern history” against Russia in Ukraine. “The key to the strategy is to find a committed local partner — a proxy willing to do the killing and dying — and then load it up with the arms, money and intelligence needed to inflict shattering blows on a vulnerable rival,” wrote Hal Brands, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. “That’s just what Washington and its allies are doing to Russia today.”
A Gallup poll released Thursday finds the American people tiring of Biden’s priorities. Forty-one percent of Americans believe the United States is doing “too much to help Ukraine,” and 61% oppose an open-ended flow of U.S. money and materiel to the Zelensky government.
“If we don’t support Ukraine, then Putin wins,” Austin testified on Halloween.
“These people have no clue what they’re doing,” said Senator Tuberville. “We’d better get back to worrying about the problems of this country first. We’re declining as a nation.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.