Top Defense officials insisted that Ukraine will not fall to Russia and they have no reason to believe US dollars and equipment are being ‘diverted’ for unintended purposes.
Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense policy, also insisted US F-16 fighter jets are not a top priority for Ukraine and would take 18-24 months to get them up and running in the war zone.
The comments came at a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing on Ukraine oversight Tuesday.
It comes amid a growing split in the Republican Party between those who favor more aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia and those who have grown tired of pouring billions into an overseas war that’s now lasted over a year.
‘US military aid to Ukraine exceeds the costs of Afghanistan. Enough is enough,’ Texas GOP Rep. Troy Nehls tweeted Tuesday.
Robert Storch, Inspector General of the Department of Defense, insisted that there are over 20 ongoing and planned audits and evaluations of the over $113 billion in combined military, economic and and humanitarian aid the U.S. has given Ukraine since Russia invaded.
He said his agency would have an oversight report on Ukraine aid made available in April.
‘We don’t see any evidence of diversion in our reporting,’ Kahl added. ‘We think the Ukrainians are using properly what they’ve been given.’
But Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz was not convinced. He asked Storch four times in a row to say whether the aid to Ukraine complied with End Use Monitoring, a provision of the 1996 Arms Control Act that requires the U.S. to ensure weapons it hands over to other nations are being used for their intended purposes.
‘You cannot testify truthfully under oath that the DOD has complied with the policy and law regarding end use monitoring during all times of this conflict, isn’t that right?’ Gaetz pressed.
‘I wanna be careful here,’ Storch said. ‘We are conducting a series of evaluations that look at the controls that DOD has in place to ensure that they are taking the steps required.’
‘You’re sorta dodging the question,’ he told Storch as the OIG repeated that investigations were ongoing.
‘I get that it’s ongoing – I’m looking backwards. You cannot testify that everything has complied with the law of end use monitoring can you?’ Gaetz said.
‘So some of that gets into the classified report,’ said Storch.
Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense policy, insisted US F-16 fighter jets are not a top priority for Ukraine and would take 18-24 months to get them up and running in the war zone
Robert Storch, Inspector General of the Department of Defense, insisted that there are over 20 ongoing and planned audits and evaluations of the over $113 billion in combined military, economic and and humanitarian aid the U.S. has given Ukraine since Russia invaded
‘I don’t know why that report’s classified. I think the American people deserve to know if the 1996 law is being followed,’ said Gaetz. ‘You can’t testify that it is being followed so I think they can draw reasonable conclusions from that.’
Asked if the 20 audits did anything to assuage his concerns, Gaetz told DailyMail.com: ‘I’ve read the results of some of those audits. And having read the results i remain deeply concerned about End Use Monitoring.’
Armed Services chairman Rep. Mike Rogers instead criticized President Biden for being ‘overly worried that giving Ukraine what it needs to win would be too escalatory.’
Democrat Ranking Member Adam Smith, meanwhile, struck a more cautious tone with Ukraine aid.
‘No blank check means no blank check. It means we don’t just send everything that people ask for in the blink of an eye without even thinking about it. Okay, we think about it and we get the Ukrainians what they really need,’ he said.
Meanwhile, another four lawmakers, mostly on the Armed Services Committee, signed onto a 16-member bipartisan letter calling on the Biden administration to give F-16 fighter jets or similar fourth generation aircraft to Ukraine.
But Smith poured cold water on the idea of giving F-16s to Ukraine.
‘We determined that is not a wise use of the resources that are necessary to win the fight. That’s what no blank check means,’ he said.
Kahl had said that it would take 18-24 months to get a full fleet of operational F-16s in Ukraine as he said Ukrainians are more concerned with other weapons systems.
‘It is a priority for the Ukrainians, but it is not one of their top three priorities,’ Kahl said.
Biden said last Friday Ukraine ‘doesn’t need F-16s now.’ Kahl said at the hearing the U.S. had not begun any sort of training of Ukraine pilots on the F-16.
‘I think it’s crazy,’ Gaetz told DailyMail.com of the F-16 push from his colleagues on Armed Services.
‘I’m worried when I hear the push [for F-16s] because it seems as though the thing that directly precedes us sending something to Ukraine is the Biden administration saying we’re not gonna do it,’ Gaetz said.
The Biden administration and Congress has set aside a staggering $113 billion in American taxpayer funds for Ukraine in a conflict that has no end in sight
‘That’s what they said about the stingers, the Abrams, the HIMARS, now its what they’re saying about the f-16s. Certainly Lockheed thinks there’s gonna be f-16s going they’re already spinning up production.’
The Washington Post editorial board called on Biden to send F-16s, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. said in a tweet Biden ruling it out was ‘disappointing.’
‘It has been like pulling teeth with this Administration to get every weapons system requested by Ukraine to the battlefield.’
On the other hand Smith defended the Biden administration, arguing ‘what we are giving Ukraine is those weapons systems they need.’
‘There is not a decision being made about whether it is too escalatory,’ he insisted.
Kahl also pushed back about the assertion that the Biden administration had been behind the ball on providing Ukraine with assistance over concerns of escalation.
‘As a general matter I do not think we are holding back security assistance from Ukraine largely for escalatory reasons,’ he said, adding he was ‘relatively comfortable about where we are on the escalatory dynamic.’
Kahl, meanwhile, insisted that Ukraine will not lose, despite reports that Russia is readying a spring offensive.
‘I think we know one conclusion for sure: Russia has lost,’ he said. They will emerge from this conflict a shattered military power.’
‘Ukraine is not going to lose,’ said Kahl, adding that there could be minor territorial changes over the coming months but nothing major.
‘The Russians do not have the capacity to take over Ukraine,’ he added.
Kahl said he does not anticipate Russia will use nuclear weapons, even though Vladimir Putin officially signed a law Tuesday suspending the new START treaty, Russia’s last standing arms control treaty with the U.S.
‘We’ve made it very clear to Russia at the highest levels that any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine on any scale would be considered a world-changing event,’ Kahl said.
He issued a threat: ‘A lot of restraints we’ve been operating under would no longer pertain.’
Kahl said that Russia suspending START was Putin’s way to ‘generate some rhetorical headlines’ but will have little practical effect.
But asked about his GOP colleagues’ claims the Biden administration was too hesitant to provide weapons based on fears of escalation, Gaetz said: ‘I fear nuclear weapons from Russia more than I fear broken tanks from Russia.’