Yanett Yellen in Kyiv




By guest author Alex Kingsbury

Senior Editor, International of the New York Times.

It’s one thing for American leaders to pledge to stand with Ukraine. It’s quite another for them to do so while standing in Ukraine.
That’s where Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, found herself on Monday, pledging USD 1.25 billion in economic and budget assistance to the war-shattered nation. While donated tanks, guns, missile launchers and all the rest get a lot of attention, equally vital is the massive infusion of cold, hard cash into Ukraine, which keeps its economy functioning, its society from crumbling and its military in the fight.


As Yellen notes in a guest essay for Times Opinion, the United States has thus far provided close to $50 billion worth of security, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. “Our economic support helps Ukraine’s government continue to be able to provide basic services to its people,” she writes. “Just last year, our assistance allowed roughly 500,000 health care workers and 60000 first responders to continue to save lives. We’ve also helped keep half a million teachers in the classroom.”
Yellen makes the case that it is the “moral duty” of the United States to come to the aid of free people under attack. She also echoes the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in calling the work not charity but a down payment for global security and democracy.


That it may be. But after a year of war and the expenditure of billions in aid, popular support for funding teachers and health care workers overseas is softening in the United States. Here’s the Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson bemoaning the billions of taxpayer dollars heading to Kyiv: “We could pay off half the medical debt in the entire country. We could pay for two years of community college tuition for every young person in the United States. We could fund all out-of-pocket expenses for cancer patients for five years. That’s a lot of money. We could do a lot with it.”


With U.S. trains derailing, infrastructure crumbling, hospitals closing and school debt skyrocketing, Carlson has settled on a powerful line of attack. Never mind that many conservatives are loath to invest money in things like infrastructure when they have the chance; the rhetoric of profligate overseas spending resonates with many Americans on the left and the right.


“Ukrainians are fighting for their lives on the front lines of the free world. Today, and every day, they deserve America’s unyielding support,” Yellen writes.
But “unyielding support” and representative democracy are often at odds. If the Biden administration doesn’t maintain popular domestic support for Ukraine, it risks being replaced by an administration that promises to stop writing checks.


As is the case with many wars, and this war in particular, time is the ultimate arbiter. The Russians are playing for time. With a vastly larger military and a staggering capacity to accept human casualties, Moscow is hoping to drag out the conflict long enough for the West to lose its patience and its solidarity. Russia is hoping, in other words, that Carlson wins the war for American hearts and minds.


Ukraine, on the other hand, is hoping that the latest influx of donated weapons — tanks and antiaircraft systems — get there soon enough to turn the tide of the conflict before its own military and economic strength are exhausted.


Janet L. Yellen in Kyiv: Economic Aid to Ukraine Is Vital


Feb. 27, 2023

Janet Yellen  gen   Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen outside St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral during her visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday.Credit…Sergei Supinsky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


By Janet L. Yellen

Ms. Yellen is the secretary of the Treasury.


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.

A woman selling vegetables outside the Zhytniy Market in Kyiv this month.Credit..


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 500000 health care workers and 60000 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 front-line 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 over USD 8 billion more 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 L. Yellen is the secretary of the Treasury and a former chair of the Federal Reserve.