Trump’s Misleading Defense for Withholding Assistance to Ukraine

What Trump Said

“But my complaint has always been and I’ll withhold again and I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine because they’re not doing it. Just the United States. We’re putting up the bulk of the money. And I’m asking why is that.”
— in remarks to reporters before the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Tuesday

President Trump was responding to reports that he had directed his staff to freeze military aid to Ukraine before he pressed the country’s president to investigate unsubstantiated corruption allegations involving former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But Mr. Trump is wrong that other countries do not contribute to Ukraine’s efforts to counteract Russian aggression in recent years.

Aid across different countries is difficult to compare, as there is no single publicly accessible source that aggregates all forms of assistance. And some sources of data shows that the European Union has actually provided more aid to Ukraine than the United States.

A 2018 report from Chatham House, a British think tank, finds that the European Union and its member states “are the biggest donor in Ukraine.”

European countries have contributed $1.8 billion in development assistance from 2014 to 2017, compared to $926 million from the United States, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

For example, Germany has pledged over 1 billion euros, or about $1.1 billion, in humanitarian aid, development programs and loans to Ukraine since 2014. Assistance from Britain has totaled about 145 million pounds, or more than $180 million at current exchange rates, since 2014.

Countries outside of Europe have assisted Ukraine as well, with Canada providing $785 million and Japan $468 million.

“The European Union’s support to Ukraine in the past 5 years has been unprecedented and consistent,” Maja Kocijancic, the European Union spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a statement.

The Congressional Research Service estimated a higher figure than the O.E.C.D. data for the United States’ contribution: $1.3 billion in aid to Ukraine from late 2013 to early 2017 and $600 million in security assistance. The European Union also reported a larger contribution when loans from European banks are factored in: 15 billion euros since 2014, or about $16.5 billion, including 133.8 million euros in humanitarian assistance.

NATO also set up a number of trust funds to help Ukraine develop military defense capabilities. A NATO official said that allies had pledged 40 million euros, or about $44 million, through the trust funds and that individual allies had their own bilateral assistance programs with Ukraine.

Michael Emerson of the Center for European Studies, a research institute in Brussels, also noted that the European Union is Ukraine’s largest trading partner.

“E.U. has a deep association and free trade agreement with Ukraine since 2014, and its trade flows have expanded greatly, displacing Russian trade flows, while U.S. trade flows are relatively marginal,” Mr. Emerson said. (The United States is Ukraine’s 10th-largest trading partner.)

Asked whether Mr. Trump had a point about European contributions in comparison to the United States’ funding, Mr. Emerson suggested a reformulation: “U.S. assistance pales in comparison to that of the E.U.”

Julian E. Barnes and Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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