Opinion | Janet Yellen in Kyiv: Economic Aid to Ukraine Is Vital
KYIV, Ukraine — A year ago, the capital where I am now was under siege by Russian forces. Sounds of gunfire and explosions filled the streets; missiles rained down on this and other cities across Ukraine. Many people, including Vladimir Putin, expected that Ukraine would quickly collapse.
One year later, Russia’s barbaric attacks continue — but Kyiv stands strong and free.
Ukraine’s heroic resistance is the direct product of the courage and resilience of Ukraine’s military, leadership and people. But President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainians would be the first to admit that they can’t do this alone — and that international support is crucial to sustaining their resistance.
I’m in Kyiv to reaffirm our unwavering support of the Ukrainian people. Mr. Putin is counting on our global coalition’s resolve to wane, which he thinks will give him the upper hand in the war. But he is wrong. As President Biden said here last week, America will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Most Americans understand the importance of our critical security support: tanks, ammunition, and air defense systems that equip Ukraine’s front lines. But there has been less public attention on the foundational role that our economic assistance plays in supporting Ukraine’s resistance.
Since the start of the full-scale war, the United States has provided close to $50 billion in economic, security and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. We’re proud to be Ukraine’s largest bilateral donor, and just as proud to be joined by an international coalition of supporters, including the European Union and other members of the Group of 7. Our assistance has received broad bipartisan backing, and we’ve made sure to deploy these funds with accountability and transparency.
Our support is motivated, first and foremost, by a moral duty to come to the aid of a people under attack. We also know that, as President Zelensky has said, our assistance is not charity. It’s an investment in “global security and democracy.”
Let’s look at the strategic impact of our support for Ukraine so far. Mr. Putin’s war poses a direct threat to European security, as well as to the laws and values that underpin the rules-based international system. One year into the war, together with our allies, we have proved to Russia our capacity and willingness to counter its aggression in Europe. And we have delivered a broader message of deterrence to anyone who may have been contemplating following Mr. Putin’s playbook. The architecture that reinforces global security is also stronger now than before the war began. Alliances like NATO are growing in size and unity, and the United States has bolstered its global leadership by showing that we can be trusted to keep our word.
Our work is not over. In fact, it is more vital than ever that we continue supporting the Ukrainians.
Let me explain.
Ukraine has vast unmet economic needs, even after taking fiscal belt-tightening and emergency measures. The reason is simple: War is first and foremost a security and humanitarian threat — but it is also a huge economic shock.
Our economic support helps Ukraine’s government continue to be able to provide basic services to its people. Just last year, our assistance allowed roughly 500,000 health care workers and 60,000 first responders to continue to save lives. We’ve also helped keep half a million teachers in the classroom.
As Russia undertakes a widespread and systematic attack on Ukraine’s civilian population, we’ve helped Ukraine mount a vigorous response to assist over a million people who have had to flee their homes, while also providing social assistance, housing and utility subsidies and pension payments for millions of vulnerable Ukrainians bearing the economic brunt of the war. And our aid has enabled civil servants to continue to operate the government, ensuring that it remains able to provide a steady hand during a period of extreme hardship.
Further, through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, we are providing funding to repair basic infrastructure. This includes civilian energy grids hit by Russian missiles. Our support helps buttress the foundations of the Ukrainian economy so it can continue to operate under extraordinary circumstances.
We cannot allow Ukraine to lose the war for economic reasons when it has shown an ability to succeed on the battlefield. Ukraine’s military resistance depends on a government that can function effectively, as well as a stable economy that can help finance defense efforts over the long term. By fortifying the “home front,” our economic assistance is helping make possible Ukraine’s stalwart frontline defense against Russia.
Of course, it’s essential that we make sure that American taxpayer dollars are used for their intended purpose. Our partners at the World Bank have a long history of working in Ukraine, and they have instituted robust safeguards for accountability and transparency. Funds are released via the World Bank — on a reimbursement basis, with a multitiered accountability system, including independent third-party monitoring, reporting and audit requirements. President Zelensky has pledged to use these funds in the “most responsible way.” We welcome this commitment, as well as his longstanding agenda to strengthen good governance in Ukraine.
Over the coming months, the United States will provide an additional over $8 billion in urgently needed direct budget support to Ukraine. And while our focus is on bridging Ukraine’s financing gaps now, we are also committed to supporting the country in its eventual reconstruction effort. In preparation, Ukraine, the United States, the European Commission and the rest of the G7, along with other international partners, have established an inclusive platform to mobilize donors from across the globe and coordinate assistance flows.
We will also continue to take further actions to mount what has become the swiftest, most unified and most ambitious sanctions regime in modern history. Our coalition of over 30 countries has systematically degraded Russia’s military-industrial complex and reduced revenues that the Kremlin is relying on to fund its war. As demonstrated by our new actions last week, we will not rest until the war is over. This year, a heightened priority will be to disrupt Russia’s attempts to evade sanctions.
Every time I’ve met with Ukrainian leaders, they have thanked the American people for our generosity. And I often respond by saying that we are proud to support the people of Ukraine.
When confronted with scenes of brutality and oppression, Americans have always been quick to stand up and do the right thing. Our strength as a nation comes from our commitment to our ideals — and our capacity to see in others the same desires that animated our own struggles for freedom and justice.
Ukrainians are fighting for their lives on the front lines of the free world. Today, and every day, they deserve America’s unyielding support.
Janet Yellen is the secretary of the Treasury and a former chair of the Federal Reserve.
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