March 17, 2023

The Surprising Success of U.S. Military Aid to Ukraine

Ukraine’s military has defied expectations in its war with Russia, and many analysts attribute its success to U.S. help. But the mere fact of receiving aid is no guarantee of a positive outcome. After all, the United States provides security assistance to many countries with mixed results. Billions of dollars in aid and decades of training, advising, and institution building did not stop the armies of Afghanistan and Iraq from collapsing. Smaller scale efforts around the world have produced so-called Fabergé egg armies, militaries that are expensive to build but easy to crack.

What Ukraine needs now from the United States to beat back the Russian invasion is weapons and ammunition.

One of the main reasons security assistance has succeeded in buttressing the Ukrainian war effort but failed elsewhere has to do with the motivation of Ukraine’s leadership. If leaders are not prepared to prioritize institutional reforms that will strengthen their militaries, then foreign support will be of little consequence. Ukraine’s experience is telling. Between 2014 and early 2022, Ukrainian officials were glad to receive U.S. help, and they followed U.S. advice in making changes that improved the effectiveness of Ukrainian forces. But they did not embrace institutional reforms that threatened the political or personal interests of powerful constituencies.

Read the full article from Foreign Affairs.

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