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US Army in Europe Dips Into Own Funds to Cover Ukraine Training 

PENTAGON — The U.S. military has been forced to dip into its own funding to cover American training of Ukrainian forces, a strategy that could leave the Army short on finances in Europe as the Russian war on Ukraine enters its third year.

“U.S. Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF) is currently paying to fund Ukraine training ourselves,” Col. Martin O’Donnell, the public affairs director for the Army’s forces across those two continents, told VOA.

Without a 2024 budget approved by Congress, and without Congress passing supplemental funding for Ukraine, USAREUR-AF currently has roughly $3 billion to pay for $5 billion of operations costs, according to two U.S. Army officials.

“If nothing changes, and we do not receive additional money, we will run out of funding for everything — support to Ukraine, operations and exercises in Europe and Africa — at the start of summer,” O’Donnell said.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been debating new funding for Ukraine for months. The Pentagon sent the last round of aid that could be pulled from its military stockpiles in late December.

Last week, the Senate approved a $95 billion foreign aid bill that included $60 billion in support for Ukraine. However, Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has so far declined to bring the bill up for a vote.

Congressional “inaction” is forcing the Army and others to make “tough decisions” that could “impact the entire force,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told VOA.

“We are definitely vulnerable,” she said in an interview Friday. “We’re unable to modernize. We’re unable to change programs. It’s like fighting with one arm tied behind our back. It puts us at a complete disadvantage.”

Singh called the training of Ukrainian forces “an essential mission.”

“We can’t just turn our backs on those Ukrainian soldiers that are coming, whether it’s in Europe or to the United States to train, to go back out there and fight this war,” she said.

The Biden administration believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals do not end with taking Ukraine. Should Putin attack a NATO ally, the U.S. would be bound by treaties to defend that nation, bringing the U.S. into war with Russia.

In the administration’s view, supporting Ukraine not only comes to the aid of a democratic partner that was illegally invaded, but also keeps the U.S. out of a future war.

According to an Army official, the U.S. just completed training a Ukrainian battalion in Germany and is currently training approximately 150 Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr Training Area.

“We remain postured to support Ukraine’s needs,” Col. O’Donnell told VOA.

Arizona National Guardsmen are also training a small number of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, while a small number of other Ukrainian pilots and aircraft maintainers attend English-language training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Dan Hokanson told reporters earlier this month that the Guard can continue the training to completion — likely later this year.

“Then if we decide to increase that, obviously, we’ll need the resources to train additional pilots and ground support personnel,” he said.

Saturday marks two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine says it has retaken control over more than 50% of the territory once controlled by Russia. Russia still controls about 18% of Ukrainian territory.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that Ukraine wouldn’t have lost the city of Avdiivka, where Kyiv’s forces recently withdrew, if Ukraine “had received all the artillery ammunition that we needed to defend it.”

Singh on Friday agreed with Kuleba’s assessment, saying there was a “direct link” between “congressional inaction” and Ukraine’s withdrawal from Avdiivka.

Source: VOA