A Ukrainian serviceman of 79th brigade fires a 105 mm howitzer near the frontline outside of Marinka in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on February 28, 2024.

A Ukrainian serviceman of 79th brigade fires a 105 mm howitzer near the frontline outside of Marinka in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on February 28, 2024. Wolfgang Schwan / Anadolu via Getty Images

Some U.S. military aid is still trickling into Ukraine via arms dealers, contracts suggest

Companies that have previously supplied Ukraine are now competing to provide “special ammunition” worth $624 million.

At least some new military aid may be trickling into Ukraine via U.S. arms dealers despite House Republicans’ opposition to more funding for the beleaguered country.

In November, the Pentagon announced that five companies had won the right to compete for slices of a $490 million contract to provide “special ammunition and weapons” to the U.S. Army: Northrop Grumman, Global Military Products, Blane International, and Ultra Defense Corp—the latter added several weeks after the initial announcement.

On Feb. 7, the Army again picked Northrop and Global Military Products to compete for slices of a “special ammunition and weapons contract”—this one worth $133.9 million.

None of these awards mentions Ukraine, nor do they say that the materiel will be sent to a foreign military. 

However, as previously reported by DefenseOne, Northrop Grumman and Global Military Products received a $522 million contract in January 2023 to supply Ukraine with 155mm artillery shells. That award was funded via the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, one of two ways that the U.S. has funded the acquisition of new weapons for Ukraine. 

A week after the Pentagon announced its $490 million competition in November, it awarded the first slice: $121,173.80 to Global Military Products. The award data said the government was buying ammunition—under a category that includes artillery shells and unguided rockets—from Romania. That country is a key source of weapons to Ukraine, as seen in Ukrainian import documents, which also repeatedly note arms shipments from Global Military Products. 

The other competitors also have strong connections to Ukraine. Ultra Defense Corp has sold Ukraine weapons since almost the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including howitzers that Ukraine later claimed were defective.  

Blane International has had connections to Ukraine for at least two decades. Founder Milton Blane, who died in 2016, rose to prominence briefly because of his connections to Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was a witness in Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The company, which operates out of a home address in the suburbs of Atlanta, currently lists Tatiana Blane as its CEO, CFO, secretary, and agent. Defense One called the company’s listed phone number, asking to discuss the involvement of the company in the $490 million contract. The person who answered the phone declined to comment. 

The Pentagon’s use of a company with such a limited profile may suggest that the firm is being used as a cutout to enable a third-party country to hide weapons transfers to Ukraine, said Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

Why funds are still available

In November, the Pentagon announced that it had committed all $18.9 billion available under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative—i.e., officials had decided what kinds of weapons and other aid to buy with the money. But more than one-third of the amount has not yet been awarded to the companies that will provide the materiel. 

As of Jan. 15, 2023, the Pentagon has issued contracts for $12.3 billion of the total, according to a Pentagon press release. Shells account for the highest spending categories within USAI, with $1.7 billion spent on 155mm shells and $756 million on other forms of ammunition. 

The unspent funds and continuing contracts to U.S. arms dealers suggest that, even as Ukraine experiences a severe lack of munitions, some U.S. military support is still flowing to the war torn country. 

Cancian calculates that at least some U.S. military aid deliveries will continue until at least October 2024 due to production timelines. 

Those deliveries, however, will not be enough to defend Ukraine adequately. Cancian wrote that Ukraine’s army, which is already severely short of munitions, will struggle to counter-attack Russian forces by early spring, and by early summer will struggle to hold back Russian forces. 

Russia, absent further U.S. aid, would then likely break through Ukrainian defenses and make major territorial gains, possibly leading to the “complete collapse” of Ukraine’s government. 

British think-tank RUSI previously reported that, at a minimum, Russia seeks to replace Ukraine’s head of state with one that Russia approves of, recognizes Russian control of the 18 percent of Ukrainian territory Russia already controls, plus the major, Ukrainian-held cities of Kharkiv and Odesa.