“Democracy's fight against world conquest is being greatly aided, and must be more greatly aided, by the rearmament of the United States and by sending every ounce and every ton of munitions and supplies that we can possibly spare to help the defenders who are in the frontlines,” President Franklin Roosevelt intoned as tyrant regimes descended on democracies across Asia and Europe. Our enemies “must be out-fought and out-produced,” he said, adding, “We must be the great arsenal of democracy.”
Eight decades later, the valiant Ukrainian people are doing the fighting, while America and its allies are producing the weapons needed to defend the frontlines of freedom.
America’s arsenal Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cogently explains why America and its free-world allies have reopened their arsenals to support Ukraine. “Putin's war of choice is a direct threat to European security … Russian aggression is a clear challenge to our NATO allies … Russia's deliberate cruelty is an attack on our shared values … And finally, Russia's invasion tears at the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure … Our support for Ukraine's self-defense is an investment in our own security and prosperity.”
· 1,600+ Stinger anti-aircraft systems
· 8,500+ Javelin anti-armor systems and 46,000+ other anti-armor munitions
· 700+ Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems
· 142 M777 155mm howitzers and 1 million 155mm rounds
· 4,200 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds
· 9,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine Systems
· 38 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and rockets
· 20 120mm mortar systems and 135,000 120mm rounds
· 1,500 TOW missiles
· Eight NASAMS and four Avenger air-defense systems
· Undisclosed numbers of high-speed anti-radiation missiles, laser-guided rocket systems and M18A1 anti-personnel munitions
· 20 Mi-17 helicopters, 45 T-72B tanks, 1,000+ Humvees and 100+ light tactical vehicles
· 200 M113 armored personnel carriers (APC), 250 M1117 armored infantry fighting vehicles (AFV) and 440 mine-resistant vehicles
· 11,000+ grenade launchers and small arms
· 104 million rounds of small arms ammunition
· 75,000+ sets of body armor and helmets
· 50+ counter-artillery radar systems
· Two coastal defense systems
· Secure communications systems, satellite communications antennas and electronic jamming equipment
· Thousands of night-vision devices, surveillance systems, thermal-imagery systems, optics and laser rangefinders
· Commercial satellite imagery services
· Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear protective equipment
· 350+ generators
Patriot missile-defense batteries are on the way. Recently-retired M1A1 tanks may soon be added to the list, according to Pentagon officials. And there’s more to come. The White House has requested $38 billion in fresh appropriations for Ukraine, which would raise the total amount appropriated (not spent) for Ukraine above $100 billion.
U.S. assistance is not limited to weapons systems. The United States has shared vast amounts of intelligence with Kiev and conducted high-level joint wargaming to steer Ukraine’s tactics and maximize Ukraine’s resources. Plans are in motion to train thousands of Ukrainian combat troops at facilities in Germany -- an extension of training programs launched after Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
Allied arsenals America is not alone in this effort. Some 50 nations are sending aid to Ukraine and helping defend democracy.
Germany has sent Ukraine mine-resistant vehicles, ammunition for multiple-launch rockets, anti-drone sensors and jammers, Iris-T air-defense systems, self-propelled howitzers, 200,000+ rounds of 40mm ammunition, self-propelled anti-aircraft systems, tens of thousands of rounds of antiaircraft ammunition, 3,000 anti-tank weapons, 14,900 anti-tank mines, 500 Stinger air-defense systems, and 2,700 Strela air-defense systems. Germany also is standing up a maintenance facility in Slovakia to repair Ukrainian weapons.
Britain has sent Ukraine 10,000 anti-tank weapons, 120 armored vehicles and scores of Starstreak air-defense systems. Plus, Britain hosts an ongoing operation that trains 10,000 Ukrainian personnel every 120 days.
Poland has delivered more than 230 tanks, 100 air-to-air missile systems, and dozens of artillery pieces and rocket-launch systems.
Canada is providing M777 howitzers, tens of thousands of artillery rounds, winter combat gear, satellite imagery and combat training.
Britain, Netherlands and Denmark have delivered Ukraine anti-ship weapons.
Ukraine has received more than 1,200 AFVs and APCs from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Greece, Canada and Spain.
Turkey has sent ground-attack drones and electronic-warfare systems.
The Baltic countries have sent antiaircraft and antitank systems, Denmark antitank weapons, Spain air-defense systems.
NATO has engineered delivery of more than a squadron of Su-25 fighter-jets.
In addition, the EU is finalizing plans to transfer $1.5 billion in economic aid to Kiev per month to sustain Ukrainian government services throughout 2023.
Australia has sent radar systems, mine-resistant trucks and hundreds of kamikaze ground-attack drones to Ukraine, and Australian troops have deployed to Europe to train Ukrainian soldiers.
Russia has even been kind enough to provide Ukraine with arms to defend itself. Abandoned Russian equipment – including 460 main battle tanks, 92 self-propelled howitzers, 448 AFVs, 195 APCs, 44 rocket-launch systems – has doubled Ukraine’s combat capability. These captured Russian weapons make Moscow “the largest supplier of heavy weapons for Ukraine, well ahead of the U.S. or other allies in sheer numbers,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
To coordinate the massive amounts of military assistance flowing into Ukraine, the Pentagon has stood up the Security Assistance Group Ukraine, which is led by a three-star general based in Germany.
Countering those who say the free world is spending too much to help Ukraine, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg soberly explains, “We are all paying a price for Russia’s war against Ukraine. But the price we pay is in money, while the price Ukrainians pay is in blood. And if we let Putin win, all of us will pay a much higher price.”
Reloading “Freedom must be armed better than tyranny,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has observed. That’s true not only for frontline democracies like Ukraine, but also for the rest of the free world, which underscores the urgent challenge of replenishing the arsenals of democracy. NATO militaries, weapons manufacturers and supply chains – unaccustomed to the burn rate of high-intensity combat between two modern near-peer militaries – are scrambling to restock their inventories and maintain their own deterrent capabilities.
Indeed, Washington must ensure, first and foremost, that America’s arsenal has the weapons needed to defend America's democracy and deter America’s enemies – which brings us back to another line from FDR’s “Arsenal of Democracy” address: “the rearmament of the United States.”
With an $857 billion defense budget planned for 2023, it might look like America is well-armed and fully funding its military. But looks can be deceiving. The Army is undersized and overstretched. The Navy is far too small. The Air Force fleet is undermanned, undersized and old. The main reason: The United States invests a little over 3% of GDP in defense. America’s Cold War average was more than twice that.
With Russia on the march, China on the rise, the Middle East on fire, and Russian ASATs, Chinese fighter-bombers, North Korean missiles and Iranian drones setting the free world on edge, a strong argument can be made – and many have – that a new cold war is upon us. To prevent Cold War 2.0 from metastasizing into something far worse, larger and more sustained investments in defense are needed. Former national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster suggests 4.5% of GDP for defense. A panel of military experts calls for increases to the defense budget of 3% to 5% above inflation.
Spurred by the assault on Ukraine, congressional leaders are hammering out plans for a new weapons-acquisition fund, multi-year contracting to incentivize arms manufacturers and reforms that will enable the Pentagon to collaborate with NATO partners to procure weapons in large quantities. In addition, Congress is earmarking $8 billion for munitions production – on top of $600 million already authorized to backfill U.S. stocks of 155mm rounds. The Army has awarded LockheedMartin $520.8 million to replenish its inventory of Guided Missile Launch Rocket Systems. LockheedMartin has doubled production of Javelin antitank missiles and expanded production of HIMARS rocket launchers by 60%, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Likewise, NATO members are streamlining purchasing cooperation and mitigating supply-chain constraints. Nearly every NATO member is increasing defense spending. And some European arms manufacturers are even merging to boost production.
Good and bad The bad news is that Putin’s war on Ukraine appears far from over. Ukraine desperately needs more air-defense systems to protect its population centers from Russia’s indiscriminate attacks, more armor to liberate its territory, better aircraft to clear its skies.
The good news is that the arsenals of democracy won’t be shutting down anytime soon.
“We'll work together to train Ukraine's forces for the long haul,” Austin vows. “We'll work together to upgrade our defense industrial bases to meet Ukraine's requirements for the long haul. And we'll work together for production and innovation to meet Ukraine's self-defense needs for the long haul.”
The better news is that, even as the arsenals of democracy help Ukraine defend itself, they are having an impact far beyond Ukraine.
“This war has imposed terrible costs on Ukraine,” Hal Brands of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies concedes. Yet the war “has been a strategic windfall for Washington. Russia’s military is being reduced to rubble. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is expanding and strengthening its defenses. China is facing greater resistance in the Western Pacific as Japan, Taiwan and Australia hasten their military preparations. European nations that now see the downsides of dependence on one coercive autocracy are reconsidering their ties with another: Beijing. Amid Putin’s serial struggles in Ukraine, assertive authoritarianism no longer looks like the wave of the future.”
None of this – the survival of a sovereign Ukraine, the weakening of Putin’s Russia, the reawakening of NATO, the revival of the free world, the erosion of authoritarianism’s appeal, the blunting of authoritarianism’s advance – would have been possible without the arsenals of democracy.