Who will pay the price for US’ proxies?

The House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, regarding the transparency and effectiveness of the military assistance the United States has given Ukraine over the past year, came as some Republicans are openly questioning whether further aid to Ukraine should be slowed or stopped entirely, amid allegations of corruption in the Ukrainian government.

In early February, a group of 11 House Republicans unveiled a "Ukraine Fatigue" resolution urging Ukraine and Russia to reach a peace agreement and stating the US must end its military and financial aid to Ukraine. Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama, the committee chairman, said Congress has appropriated more than $100 billion in military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies, with more than $75 billion doled out so far.

That unprecedented amount of aid has sparked scrutiny by some lawmakers, who want to ensure Ukraine is using that aid properly. Although there remains a bipartisan consensus in Congress to continue the program, that consensus is weakening as the Ukraine conflict has now entered its second year, and as Pentagon officials admitted in the hearing, there is no telling how long it will grind on for and for how long the US will need to provide assistance.

The underlying reason for that is the Joe Biden administration, the main promoter of the conflict, has been throwing too many objectives into the Ukraine basket without revealing what the criteria are for their achievement. It is the speculation of the Biden administration on the crisis that rendered the hearing on Tuesday into a dialogue between a chicken and a duck.

Questioned whether the US can replace its assistance by selling weapons to Ukraine, Celeste Wallander, US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said: "It is a very good point that we also need to transition them to start their own defense spending planning as well as everything else we will do to support them."

That caught people's attention. When most have taken the US' military assistance as a lives-for-weapons program, the US is hinting that its assistance has been priced beforehand, and when Ukraine will need to start paying for it depends on when it has achieved the Biden administration's opaque objectives.

It is predictable that before that becomes clear the US will continue to up the ante in the conflict. But no matter how seemingly fierce future hearings on this matter appear, both sides are in tacit agreement that as long as US lives are spared, having proxies to do the dirty work is a good bargain.