- Oleg Chernysh
- BBC News Ukraine
The US authorities are preparing to pass a law on the lease of military weapons for Ukraine. The last time a similar procedure was in place was during World War II. Now it can become an important factor in the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation.
Even before the open Russian invasion began in February, US authorities began supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons. After the beginning of the aggression, the volume of military supplies increased significantly and reached 3.7 billion dollars. Partners from overseas give Ukraine not only weapons and equipment, but also money to buy other weapons.
“We believe that they (Ukrainians) can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
The law on land lease for Ukraine can increase this military assistance at times. The US Senate unanimously supported him on April 6. Then the floor to the Standing Committee, which considered the document on April 27. But it will come into force if it is supported by the House of Representatives and then signed by President Joe Biden.
America has once taken such a step. Then he became one of the decisive for the victory over Nazi Germany.
The law on material assistance to European allies in the United States was passed in March 1941, when the war on the continent had been going on for almost a year and a half. But that was nine months before America formally entered the hot phase of the war after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The “lend lease” procedure, which means “leasing or lending” literally, meant that Washington would hand over military and civilian equipment, weapons, equipment, ammunition and other property to countries whose defense was “vital” to the United States.
Such countries first included Britain and China, and then France and the USSR.
The Soviet Union signed the first American aid agreement only in October 1941, when Soviet troops had been defeated by Nazi Germany for six months, retreating to the east and losing thousands of equipment and millions of soldiers.
It was not until June 1942 that the parties fully agreed on the supply of weapons, equipment and other property.
Then the USSR and the USA concluded the “Agreement on the Principles of Mutual Assistance in the War against Aggression”. The USSR undertook to return after the war those defense materials that would not be lost or lost and that the United States would need.
The agreement was received with great enthusiasm in the Soviet Union.
“The will of the great powers is aimed at establishing a strong world after defeating the enemy and protecting humanity from the possibility of a recurrence of bandit wars. The Soviet Union and the United States are determined to build their postwar relations on the basis of close friendly cooperation,” the newspaper said. “Red Star”, which was the official mouthpiece of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR.
But it did not happen as planned. After the war, the paths of the former allies quickly diverged, and the importance of the American Lend-Lease began to be publicly devalued by the leaders of the Union.
Soviet leaders began to say that US aid was “insignificant” and had no effect on the course of hostilities.
The dry statistics are as follows: during the four years of the war, the United States supplied the Allies with goods and weapons worth almost $ 50 billion, which at the current rate is about $ 700 billion. $ 4 billion.
It should be noted that the actual weapons, as well as tanks and aircraft, accounted for a smaller part of all property that Washington transferred to Moscow.
Cars, radio stations, machines, wagons and steam locomotives, oil products, steel sheets, gunpowder, food and other goods were mainly leased. They were delivered from the United States by sea.
These products allowed the USSR to maintain the pace of production of its own weapons and equipment and led to the victory of the Allies. For example, American wagons and fuel made it possible to deliver reinforcements and weapons to the front. Materials and machines were used in the manufacture of military equipment, and long-term storage products solved the problem of food shortages among Soviet soldiers and civilians.
According to preliminary agreements, part of the property the Soviet Union would have to pay to the supplier. But he was not satisfied with the $ 2.7 billion bill presented by the US government after the war.
During the long and difficult negotiations between the countries during the Cold War, this amount dropped to 720 million dollars. The debt was finally repaid by the Russian Federation in 2006.
The new war in Europe has shown the relevance of old aid instruments. In fact, procedures similar to the American Lend-Lease, namely the free transfer of weapons and equipment to Ukraine, have already been introduced in many European countries, as well as Canada, Japan and Australia.
The United States has decided that the draft law on land lease for Ukraine (Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act) will be able to bring these processes to a qualitatively new level. He was publicly supported by lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
The text of the document refers to giving the US president expanded powers to transfer or lease defense products to Ukraine to “protect civilians from Russian military invasion” and for other purposes.
The document also emphasizes that any loan or lease of defense products by the Government of Ukraine will have conditions for repayment, repayment and repayment of the loan or lease. After the act is approved, the chairman of the White House is obliged to establish expedited procedures for product delivery within 60 days.
The Ukrainian side reacted positively to the project and stated that it is waiting for its adoption as soon as possible.
“If the law on land lease is approved, it will significantly speed up the supply of weapons, transport, food and other assistance for rent or free of charge from the United States to Ukraine,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office.
According to him, the US Department of Defense has established a control center to coordinate the supply and optimize the delivery of military aid to Ukraine in Germany – in the area of responsibility of the European Command of the US Armed Forces.
Former Ambassador of Ukraine to Washington Valery Chaly has no doubt that the land lease will be launched. According to him, this will be of great historical significance.
“Russia’s aggression, which is aimed primarily at destroying Ukraine, is finally perceived as an existential threat to European and world security,” he said.
Chaly points out that the law on land lease testifies to the US confidence in Ukraine’s victory. Indeed, if we draw historical parallels, the volume of military supplies from America to the Soviet Union increased significantly after the turn of the war in 1943, when the Germans failed and began to retreat.
Alyona Hetmanchuk, director of the New Europe think tank, also points out that the land lease procedure will greatly simplify and speed up the supply of weapons to Ukraine. But she is convinced that in these circumstances it is more symbolic than a practical gesture.
“After the United States gave the green light for the supply of heavy weapons a couple of weeks ago and became actively involved in this process, this bill is not so critical, but serves as an important signal of faith and trust – faith in Ukraine’s victory and trust to the Ukrainian military-political leadership, “she told BBC News Ukraine.
At the same time, Hetmanchuk emphasizes that the last word on this issue will be only for President Biden. His position on the supply of weapons to Ukraine since 2014 has been transformed into a positive one for Kyiv, she said.
“However, it is still not positive enough for positions such as fighters, for example,” the analyst added.
So far, Kyiv’s persistent requests for combat aircraft remain unanswered by Western allies.
The law on land leases gives good reasons to move it.
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