Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Congress closer to passing Ukraine supplemental

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Democrats are moving to quickly pass nearly $40 billion in new Ukraine aid. 

We’ll break down what’s in the latest legislation, plus the Pentagon’s plea to pass the supplemental and revelations from former Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s new book. 

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

In shift, Dems de-link Ukraine aid from COVID funds 

Democrats are proposing nearly $40 billion in new assistance for Ukraine, above the roughly $33 billion requested by the Biden administration. The extra funding from Congress would include an additional $3.4 billion for both military and humanitarian assistance in addition to the money requested by the White House, two sources confirmed to The Hill.  

How soon? The proposal could be on the House floor as soon as Tuesday, one source told The Hill. Whether it could also pass the Senate by the end of the week depends on if all 100 senators could work out a time agreement and when the House sends over the legislation. 

Unattached: The Ukraine aid will not be attached to a $10 billion coronavirus assistance package, a source confirmed. That package has been stuck for weeks in the Senate because Republicans are demanding an amendment vote to prevent the administration from lifting a Trump-era border health policy.  

Democrats had eyed linking the two and the idea had support from both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House. But Republicans had vowed to block the Ukraine package if the COVID-19 funds were attached. 

The source added that the coronavirus aid would then be a separate bill and “both would originate in the House.” 

Biden’s response: In a statement later on Monday, President Biden said he would accept moving the two measures separately. Biden said that even though he urged Congress to act on funding for COVID-19 treatments, the need for aid to Ukraine was too great to put off any further. 

“We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort.  Hence, I am prepared to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the Ukrainian aid bill can get to my desk right away,” Biden said. 

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Biden running out of money source for Ukraine 

The Biden administration has reached the end of its presidential drawdown authority funding, with about $100 million left, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said Monday.    

Between President Biden’s Friday announcement of a $150 million assistance package to Ukraine and the remaining $100 million, the United States will be able to provide weapons and equipment to Ukraine until “about the third week of this month,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.  

“We’re going to be working that in real time with the Ukrainians, that will get us to about the third week of this month, is what we’re pretty much anticipating,” Kirby said. 

A warning: Biden last week warned that the latest round of military assistance for Ukraine — a $150 million package to include artillery munitions, radars and other equipment — would nearly exhaust the military assistance that Congress has so far approved for the administration to deliver to Ukraine.   

At the time, he pressed Congress to quickly approve the $33 billion the White House has asked for in additional security, economic and humanitarian assistance for Kyiv — about $5 billion of which would go to additional presidential drawdown authority funding.   

How the funding works: Kirby said the drawdown authority allows the United States to get weapons and equipment “off our shelves — we already own it, it’s already ours — and get it right to Ukraine.” 

“We think with what we got left that’ll get us through most of this month and in terms of future packages and future material, but that’s why we’re urging Congress to act quickly,” he added. 

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Esper recalls ‘outlandish’ Trump policy proposals

Mark Esper, the former secretary of Defense under President Trump, says that the former president proposed a number of “outlandish” foreign policy proposals while he was in the White House, including pulling troops out of South Korea and shutting down embassies in Africa, according to an excerpt from Esper’s upcoming memoir. 

In a new excerpt, shared by Politico, Esper wrote that shortly after he was hired to be the new Pentagon chief in 2019, Trump was railing against NATO and corruption in Ukraine, two personal issues that the rest of the national security and foreign policy team tried to tamp down because they weren’t considered leading concerns at the time. 

Other asks: Trump also said he wanted a “complete withdrawal” of forces from South Korea and that he wished to “bring our people home” from embassies in Africa, according to Esper. 

“None of this was in our nation’s interests, and as I calmly responded with facts, data and arguments, I saw some irritation in him — I was the ‘new guy’ pushing back,” Esper wrote. “I knew right then and there that this job would be far more challenging than I had anticipated, to say the least.” 

Upcoming revelations: The excerpt comes as Esper’s book, “A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times,” offers a number of bombshell allegations against Trump, including that the former president proposed launching missiles into Mexico to strike drug labs run by the cartels

Trump’s response: The Hill reached out to Trump’s team for comment. In response to Esper’s claim about proposing to launch missiles to strike drug labs in Mexico, the former president said he would not comment on the allegation but called Esper a “RINO,” or Republican in name only. 

Read the full story here

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security will host a breakfast program, “In Ukraine, There are No Quick Fixes,” with John Erath, former member of the National Security Council, at 9 a.m.  
  • Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville will testify before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on the “President’s Fiscal Year 2023 funding request and budget justification for the Army,” at 10 a.m.  
  • The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will host a discussion on the current state of the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), at 10 a.m.  
  • Foreign Policy will hold a virtual talk on “The American War in Afghanistan,” with Carter Malkasian, former special assistant for strategy to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at 10 a.m.   
  • The Center for the National Interest will hold a webinar on “Does Nuclear War Loom With Russia?” at 11 a.m.  
  • The American Enterprise Institute will hold an in-person event on “The Future of U.S. National Security Policy,” with Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), at 3 p.m.  
  • The Wilson Center will host a virtual discussion on “Lifting the Fog of War in Ukraine,” at 3 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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