Policy Brief: The Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021

The Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021 is a misuse of taxpayers’ money and will inevitably push Russia-U.S. relations in the wrong direction.

The Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021 is a United States Senate bill (S.814) introduced on March 17th, 2021, and currently awaiting consideration by the Senate as of its amendment and passage in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 21st. Sponsored by Sen. James Risch [D] and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of six other senators, three Republican and three Democrat, bill S.814 is a comprehensive support package for Ukraine. Though its content is not wholly novel, mostly reiterating and building upon previous legislation such as the laws it lists under Sec. 2(26), the Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021 highlights key features of America’s present policy towards Ukraine and Russia.

Vilifying Russia

Throughout the Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021, Russia is referred to as an aggressor, starting with the Findings section where the bill states that “[Russia] has illegally occupied the Crimean Peninsula for the past seven years” (Sec. 2, sub-section 8.A). It goes on to demand that the United States “refuse to recognize the attempted annexation of Crimea”. Nowhere does the bill mention the Crimean Referendum in favor of joining the Russian Federation following the 2014 “Revolution of Dignity”, a term used in Sec. 2(8), which resulted in the overthrow of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Under Sec. 3(1), the bill describes Ukraine as a “bulwark against the malign influence of the Russian Federation in Europe”.

The overall tone and justification of the bill, which is grounded in the belief that the US must respond to purported Russian aggression, is congruent with the prevailing US position towards Ukraine. It demonstrates that establishment politicians remain intent on clashing with Russia, even as the White House seeks to establish predictable relations with Moscow.

Integrating Ukraine into NATO

The Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021 unambiguously states that “the United States should continue to support Ukraine’s NATO aspirations” (Sec. 3, sub-section 15). To that end, the bill seeks to guarantee that Ukraine will take actions to “make defense institutional reforms in accordance with NATO standards” as a condition for receiving foreign military financing from the US (Sec. 8, sub-section b, paragraph 2).

Analysts have noted that the question of Ukrainian accession to NATO calls for more caution than previous enlargement rounds, as it would likely have a destabilizing effect on Europe-US-Russia relations. Russia has consistently made clear its opposition to NATO expansion, viewing the presence of multi-national forces on its border as a serious national security risk. Offering a Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Ukraine would thus, at the very least, undermine ongoing diplomatic efforts to relieve tensions.

Subjugating Ukraine to the American Military-Industrial Complex

In addition to military financing, the Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021 authorizes the Secretary of State to provide s0-called lethal assistance in the form of weapons systems (Sec. 8, sub-section e). Under Sec. 10, the bill requires the White House to submit a classified “strategy on how the United States will encourage third countries to donate excess defense equipment to Ukraine.”

As for involvement by US corporations, the bill sets forth a scheme to ensnare Ukraine in the American Military-Industrial Complex. Sec. 14 states that “the United States should work with the Government of Ukraine to ensure strategic assets and companies in Ukraine’s aerospace and defense sector are not subject to foreign ownership, control, or undue influence by strategic competitors of the United States.” It goes further, calling for a “strategy to support Ukraine in protecting its aerospace and defense industry from predatory investments.

According to the bill, this is achieved via Ukrainian reforms to incentivize Western investment, promoting United States direct investment in Ukraine’s aerospace and defense sector, and “leveraging tools like debt financing, equity investments, and political risk insurance to incentivize greater participation by United States firms” (Sec. 14, b, sub-section 2, paragraphs C and D). In the clearest of terms, this policy is geared towards creating a Ukrainian defense sector dominated by American and American-aligned corporations, closing the market to genuine outside competition from countries like the People’s Republic of China and, of course, the Russian Federation.

Expanding the Sanctions Regime

In Sec. 16, the Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021 also calls for a new round of targeted sanctions against Russia. Specifically, the bill asks for a determination from the President as to whether the Nord Stream II AG and 19 associated entities, which are mentioned by name, meet the criteria for sanctions under the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act (PEESA) of 2019.

Last month, the Biden administration announced it was going to waive sanctions against key groups and persons behind the Nord Stream II project to avoid straining relations with Germany, which supports the pipeline’s construction. If passed into law, the current language of the Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021 would require Biden to revisit the issue and provide congress with a “detailed explanation” as to why Nord Stream 2 AG and/or any of the 19 vessels and entities specified in the bill do or do not qualify for PEESA sanctions.

Footing the Bill

All of this comes at a hefty price: $354 million for each of the fiscal years 2022 through 2026, according to the appropriations set forth by the Ukraine Security Partnership Act of 2021. In return, America will have to deal with volatility in US-Russia relations and de-stabilization in Europe. For some in the US government, this means getting our money’s worth as it guarantees a crisis that will necessitate NATO’s continued existence and secure a market for US defense contractors, and maybe that is just what it’s all about.

Julian Fisher is a Policy Analyst at the Russian Public Affairs Committee (Ru-PAC).