The D Brief: Aid bill heads to Biden; UK also boosts funding; How will Kyiv use it?; Foreign-policy poll; And a bit more.

Late Tuesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to advance a $95 billion foreign-aid bill for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan that House lawmakers passed over the weekend after months of delays. The legislation Tuesday passed in a 79-18 vote in the upper chamber just after 9 p.m. ET., reflecting a slight but notable growth of bipartisan consensus more than two months after the Senate’s 70-29 vote for similar legislation in February.

The Republicans who changed their minds since February include Alabama’s Katie Britt; Tom Cotton of Arkansas; Nebraska’s Deb Fischer and Pete Ricketts; South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham; Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith; as well as James Lankford and Markwayne Mullin from Oklahoma. Florida’s Rick Scott also voted differently, but only in the sense that he declined to vote at all instead of voting against the four-part aid package, known as H.R. 815. 

Sen. Graham credited Donald Trump, who was impeached for withholding aid to Ukraine while president and who has since sought to prevent a new round. Graham tweeted that Trump’s recent “support for turning portions of this aid into a loan was a game-changer for getting this across the finish line.” (The bill includes a forgivable loan of $9.5 billion for economic aid.) “It’s a bad night for Putin, the Iranian Ayatollah and the Chinese Communist Party,” Graham said.

“Eighty years ago, few Americans knew the names of Pearl Harbor and Normandy. But because of our failure to take deterrence seriously, they soon would,” said Republican Roger Wicker, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a statement following his vote Tuesday. “Today the world is talking about Kyiv, Tel Aviv, and Taipei. How we act now is going to shape the 21st century in a way that keeps Americans safe,” he said. 

“Congress has sent a powerful message to the world,” said SASC Chairman Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. “This legislation demonstrates that we stand resolutely with our friends and allies, and that America’s interests and safety won’t be challenged by dictators or bullies.”

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, lauded the vote Tuesday, but noted its passage “arrived tragically late due to a relentless partisan campaign of obstructionism and misinformation, which had profound consequences for those on the front lines of conflict and those in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Fortunately, help is now on the way,” he said. 

Industry POV: “This legislation provides a much-needed injection of funding that will safeguard America’s future by replenishing U.S. stocks and increasing production capacity here at home,” said Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Eric Fanning. “We look forward to seeing this bipartisan support for the American industrial base continue throughout the fiscal year 2025 appropriations process,” he added. 

POTUS: “I will sign this bill into law and address the American people as soon as it reaches my desk [Wednesday] so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday night. “The need is urgent: for Ukraine, facing unrelenting bombardment from Russia; for Israel, which just faced unprecedented attacks from Iran; for refugees and those impacted by conflicts and natural disasters around the world, including in Gaza, Sudan, and Haiti; and for our partners seeking security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.” 

Kyiv now faces the important choice of how best to use this new aid, Defense One’s Sam Skove reported Tuesday. After all, the bill would add $13.7 billion to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which procures new weapons. It would also give $1.6 billion to the Foreign Military Financing program, a separate weapons acquisition program run by the State Department. 

On the one hand: In the short term, Ukraine must beat off Russian assaults that saw the fall of Ukraine’s eastern city of Avdiivka in February and further gains in recent weeks in the same area, Skove notes. Those Russian advances were enabled in part by dwindling U.S. military aid that left Ukrainian units increasingly rationing shells.

And on the other: In the long term, Ukraine’s leaders say they want all of their invaded territory back. But with an estimated 18 percent of Ukrainian land under Russian control, that will mean launching a major offensive. And that seems like an incredibly tall order. 

In the meantime, Russia likely has enough industrial capacity to continue pressing the attack until at least the start of 2025, Skove writes, citing a recent report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Read on, here.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1970, China launched its first space satellite, becoming the fifth nation to put an object into orbit using its own booster.  

New: The Brits announced another £500 million in military supplies to Ukraine this week. That package will include around 400 vehicles, 60 boats, more than 1,600 missiles—including long-range Storm Shadows—and more. 

“We will never let the world forget the existential battle Ukraine is fighting, and with our enduring support, they will win,” said British Defense Minister Grant Schapps. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin rang up Schapps Tuesday to discuss that aid package, the Pentagon said afterward. 

New: The Brits say they’ll increase their defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office announced Tuesday as well during a visit to Poland. “Today’s announcement will see an additional £75 billion for defence over the next six years, with defence spending expected to reach £87 billion a year in 2030,” Sunak said in a statement. “If all NATO countries committed at least 2.5% of their GDP to defence, our collective budget would increase by more than £140 billion,” he added. 

The plan is intended to “domestic munitions production pipeline and increase stockpiles,” Defense Minister Schapps said, “setting a clear demand signal for industry through long term multi-year contracts.” 

Five percent of those increases are expected to go toward “new tech from lasers to AI,” Schnapps said in a thread on social media. Taken together, the new plan “means by the end of the decade we’ll be spending over £22 billion extra a year on defence and more than double what we spent in 2010,” said Schapps. 

A second opinion: Just exactly “how the increase will be funded remains as yet unclear,” noted Malcolm Chalmers of the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “Strikingly, the new approach has not been announced at a Spending Review, a Defence Review or a Budget, but at a press conference in Warsaw. It is no less noteworthy for its unusual timing and form.”

More specifically, Chalmers explained, “The prime minister has said that the plan is ‘fully funded, without any increase in borrowing or debt’. But a sustained increase in defence spending of some £10 billion per annum (compared to previous planning assumptions) is bound to require a comparable scale of tax rises, additional cuts in other government departments, or some mixture of the two. It will be for the next government to decide how to answer this critical question.”

What are Americans’ top foreign-policy priorities this year? Preventing terrorism and reducing the flow of illegal drugs with 73% and 64% backing, respectively, according to survey results gathered during the first week of April and published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. 

Only four other issues garnered at least 50% support, and those included: 

  • “Preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction” (at 63%)
  • “Maintaining the U.S. military advantage over all other countries” (53%);
  • “Reducing the spread of infectious diseases” (52%);
  • And “Limiting the power and influence of Russia” (at 50%). 

Worth noting: Limiting China’s power and influence came close at 49% support; and about a third said the U.S. ought to be a leader in artificial intelligence.  

Other (predictable) breakdowns:

  • “70% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say climate change should be a top priority, while 15% of Republicans and Republican leaners say this,” Pew reports. 
  • And “54% of Republicans say getting other countries to assume more of the costs of maintaining world order should be a top priority, compared with 33% of Democrats,” according to the survey. 

But in a seemingly positive development, “Generally, the partisan differences on the importance of several foreign policy issues have gotten smaller since 2021, when most of these questions were last fielded,” Pew writes. Continue reading, here. 

Related reading:

  • “Russia Hosts China, Iran Security Chiefs to Discuss Cooperation,” Bloomberg reported Tuesday; 
  • “Russia exploits Western vacuum in Africa’s Sahel,” Military Periscope reported in an explainer Tuesday; 
  • See also, “The Axis of Upheaval: How America’s Adversaries Are Uniting to Overturn the Global Order,” via Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Richard Fontaine, writing in the upcoming issue of Foreign Affairs;
  • And don’t miss, “The Axis Off-Kilter: Why an Iran-Russia-China ‘Axis’ Is Shakier than Meets the Eye,” via three scholars at the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office, including research director Jason Warner, writing Friday for War on the Rocks.  

Vice chiefs from each service sat in on a panel discussion on the future of war hosted by CSIS in Washington Wednesday. Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., is set to keynote today’s event in an address scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu as well as the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer Bill La Plante are also attending. Details at CSIS, here. 

From Defense One: 

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