America became the arsenal of democracy in the run-up to World War II. But in Ukraine, the European Union and NATO nations are digging deep to provide twice as much aid even though their combined economies and purchasing power are smaller than America or China's.
With the bear at the door, Europe is doing what it can to ensure Ukraine kills it or drives it off before it gets any further in. And the level of aid from any individual country seems to correlate with the threat to it, with tiny Estonia topping the list of aid givers.
The never-ending aid to Ukraine
First, we should all acknowledge that no one is paying as steep a price as Ukraine. It pays in blood, treasure, its cultural heritage, its combined mental health, and more for every day that the war continues.
But Europeans, many of whom were averse to war and military buildup for decades, are reversing their policies. That's not surprising when you remember that many of them drew down their militaries to reduce the possibility of large armed conflicts. When Russia invaded Ukraine anyway, it proved that strongmen like Putin would never respect peace without steel backing it up.
And so now many of those countries are ramping up their domestic military spending and either donating old equipment or helping transfer gear to Ukraine. On the domestic side, European defense spending in 2022 topped €200 billion for the first time ever, and that represented a sharp increase from previous years. Finland raised its spending 36% and Lithuania increased 27%.
But Europe is especially stepping up when it comes to donations. According to the Kiel Institute's tracker of aid to Ukraine:
"...there have been important new multi-year commitments from individual European countries, in particular a 4-year military support package of Germany worth €10.5 billion (2024–2027) and Norway’s “Nansen Support Program” worth €6.6 billion over five years. Additional multi-year packages were committed by Denmark, UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal, and Lithuania."
With the new packages, European Union aid to Ukraine is now twice that of the U.S.
What's in these packages?
Some of the European donations provide important, specific capabilities to Ukraine.
Think things like the Starstreak missile, a fast, laser-guided missile that allowed Ukrainians to force Russian jets away from cities and bases. And European countries have delivered 93 modern main battle tanks to Ukraine as of August. (America has promised 31 Abrams tanks and helped train crews, but the vehicles are still en route.
Of course, many of the weapons that European countries delivered to Ukraine came from former Soviet stockpiles. These were especially useful for Ukraine early on as it let them keep the weapons they were familiar with in operation. America has done the same, helping fund deals that transferred former Soviet stockpiles to Ukraine. But newer, upgraded weapons add new capabilities.
In fact, some of the major weapons donated by Europe to Ukraine were part of deals to upgrade other European militaries. Basically, if a weapon manufacturer promised to send new weapons in a timely manner, a country promised to send its current vehicles or supplies to Ukraine now. And that's why...
...America is still a major contributor to European defense
While America's dollar value of donated equipment has fallen behind Europe, especially the European Union, it's often part of the deals needed to make donations happen.
For instance, Denmark and the Netherlands are in the process of sending over 20 F-16s to Ukraine, but Denmark said that it would need to receive its first F-35s before it could turn over the F-16s. America greenlit the transfer and promised the F-35s. Similar swap deals took place before with America promising Patriot missile batteries to countries that would send S-300 or Hawk missile systems to Ukraine.
That encourages American job growth, guarantees European security, and ties the purchasing nations tighter to the U.S. Most importantly, it allows Ukraine to better defend itself from Russia.
And that's paying dividends all on its own, with NATO countries like Finland reporting that Russian forces on their borders have dwindled.
Expect Russia to try and draw out this war as long as possible to prevent regime change, but European steadiness–bolstered by American manufacturing and weapons research–points strongly to a future where Ukraine is free for as long as it is willing to fight.