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Why Is Europe Paying So Little to Defend Ukraine Against Russia?

A HIMARS Multiple Launch Rocket System fires during a training session at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Fla., March 9, 2012. HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) is the newest asset of the Florida Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery Regiment.

The general consensus in the United States is that Russia was in the wrong for invading its neighbor last February and bears the responsibility for the war that continues to rage in Ukraine.

Another premise in the U.S. that has also not been questioned is the belief that America should shoulder the lion’s share in helping to defend Ukraine, with whom we have no mutual defense treaty. It is appropriate to stop and ask some important questions fundamental to our financial wellbeing and national security interests. 

The top of the list: why should the United States provide almost 25 times more financial and military support to Kyiv than the next closest European state? It doesn’t take much analysis of key factors to realize America’s contributions are presently out of whack and in need of rebalancing. 

Ukraine War: The Tally

The Pentagon announced last Wednesday a new $400 million military support package for Ukraine in its fight against Russia. By the end of the year, the total American support could reach over $100 billion.

The country that has made the second-most substantial contribution to Ukraine? The United Kingdom, at a total of approximately $3.9 billion

While leading voices in the United States continue to argue that Washington should support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” and give them “whatever they need,” these advocates have been virtually silent on two key questions: first, how, precisely, is it in America’s vital national interest to provide open-ended support to Kyiv, and perhaps a bigger question: why is it America that should shoulder the overwhelming portion of the burden as opposed to the rich European countries whose interests are far more acute?

Many pundits in Washington reflexively say “American leadership” requires it of us. To those who make such claims, however, I would ask: based on what definition or criteria? The unquestioned implications are that if the United States can send cash and military hardware, we must.

Yet I would argue that is not leadership at all; it is little more than an insufficiently informed reflex. 

To the contrary, a more effective demonstration of American leadership would be to ascertain the needs of our people, an identification of any direct threats to our national security, and a cost-benefit analysis examining what various courses of action would cost. Another crucial element to consider, however, is to what extent our friends and allies have the interest, need, and capacity to help Ukraine.

That last part seems never to be considered by American advocates of more U.S. military support.

It should.

The U.S. Might Be Extended

The U.S. GDP in 2021 was about $23 trillion. In the same year, the GDP in the European Union and Great Britain was just over $20 trillion. Berlin, Paris, and Rome are between 900 and 450 miles from the Ukraine border; Warsaw is barely 125 miles. The United States’ eastern border is over 4,500 miles from the western Ukraine border. The Kiel Institute, which tracks all support to Ukraine, in August reported, “the United States government alone (€44.53 billion) committed almost four times as much to Ukraine than all the individual EU country governments combined (€11.52 billion).”

By any measure, the motivation of European states to ensure their own safety should be far more pressing than ours, and their collective financial capacity is nearly equal to that of the United States – and thus they can afford to do much more, for their own security, than is presently the case.

It is reasonable, therefore, that U.S. citizens ask why they should quadruple the spending and provisions given to Ukraine by Europe when our security is not threatened by the conflict and given Europe’s proximity to Ukraine. Frankly stated, the security of Europe cannot matter more to the United States than it does to Europe.

The evident truth is that Europe is quite content – as it has been for decades – to allow the United States to “show leadership” by providing tens of thousands of weapons, over 100,000 U.S. troops, and soon over $100 billion as a means of blunting Russian capacity.

Before Washington commits to continual open-ended provisions to Ukraine, it is time we took a hard look at what we provide in comparison to our friends in the region, especially in contrast to the financial and military capacity they have.

Also a 1945 Contributing Editor, Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis. 

Written By

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1.



  1. Arash

    November 28, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    The underlining reason for this is the absolute lack of accountability to American citizens.
    Using only a fraction of this money would have solved the homelessness problem in the US! Or eliminate a great part of student loans burdening the American youth.

    As an Iranian I can promise you that Iranian leadership could never get away with a similar (scale down according to GDP) wasteful expenditure outside its borders for it has far greater accountability to its population than American leadership has to theirs.
    In the US there is simply no one to hold into account. The machine does what it wants.

  2. Michael R. Tarr

    November 29, 2022 at 12:27 am

    It also might be pointed out that Europe is already paying a high price by boycotting Russian energy,gas and oil as much as possible, setting low prices for what they pay. We as a nation are not looking at a much colder winter due to those boycotts.

  3. Dorque Forkworth

    November 29, 2022 at 1:02 am

    What is the choice: sending military supplies (money) to Ukraine or send US troops to Ukraine? Think I would keep our troops out of the battles.

    As to the cost in GDP, that $100 billion is .0043%, a small price. Also, the USA has proven the superiority of its weapons systems and the orders are flowing in according to our defense industry leaders. The oil and gas companies, especially LPG, are skipping to the banks with bags on cash. European energy prices are multiples of what the US is paying, and that difference is coming back to the USA.

    As to the distance of the conflict’s borders, don’t think the US has many regrets about entering World War II when faced with the same border distances.

    Your argument edges the border of capitulation.

    • Benny

      December 3, 2022 at 10:42 am

      Well put, totally agree:)

      support to Ukraine 24 January to 3 August 2022

      Contributor Miljarder euro Share of support
      USA 44,5 53 %
      EU 27,76 33 %

  4. Friend

    November 29, 2022 at 1:27 am

    You have a national interest in defending the Baltic states? Or Taiwan? Gimme a break. You’re just chickening out of the Article 5 that the Ukraine should normally be covered with, but as any insurance peddler, you’re only insuring that which can’t go wrong. Besides, you’re not even paying for stuff, you’re just putting a price tag on your yard sale items that are meant to be thrown anyway. The trash. Planes? No. Tanks? No? Destroyers? No. Carriers? No. Just the garbage.
    But let’s be more constructive and to the point. In all honesty, The U.S. should be be paying Ukraine. There’s absolutely no valid reason for that. What needs to happen is that MAGA should be paying Russia and the Democratic Party should be paying Ukraine. That way the Democratic Party could arm its members so that both you and the Russians could be fucked up at the same time.
    Even more so since MAGA has no legal ways and means of delivering aid to Russia, so they first need to hijack the army,

  5. Walker

    November 29, 2022 at 1:42 am

    Shouldn’t Davis consider the European Union states as whole compared to the US and not per state? I mean sure, The EU should be doing more I think we can all agree here. But this is just more of Davis’s crap that the US should be a Trumpian America First, America Now, America Only point of view. This is why he wants a frozen conflict instead of actually seeing Ukraine achieve its full independence of Russia. I think our founding fathers would be appalled by this behavior. Think of it as paying back what we received to become independent of England.

  6. Paul Gray-Nicholson

    November 29, 2022 at 2:31 am

    Hi Daniel,

    A great article, and I would love to see more reports and articles calling out those European who countries who appear to be all talk and no action (i’m thinking of the French)

    Its fascinating watching how the Ukrainian conflict is re-shaping the political landscape of Europe.

    Paul (from the UK)

  7. Arnim Kuhn

    November 29, 2022 at 2:44 am

    the problem is not that America is delivering too much . the problem is rather that Europe is not delivering enough.

  8. Peter Surkov

    November 29, 2022 at 3:35 am

    All the articles that tried to scare away from engaging in Ukraine because Russia is so «mighty» couldn’t paper over the deficiencies of its military and its system. Now Davis and his muscovite sponsor seem to change their angle and go for fostering discord within the western alliance. Like his previous analyses and predictions, I don’t see this going anywhere but the dustbin.

  9. Toon

    November 29, 2022 at 3:44 am

    How strange that one compares all the states of the USA to one country in Europe. A better comparison would be to see the combined help European countries + EU to Ukraine. US would still give a stronger support, I agree.

  10. Brad Arnold

    November 29, 2022 at 5:04 am

    You are halfway right. Better to ask yourself how much is the Ukrainian thing costng the West in direct and indirect cost. Now (pay attention), ask yourself how much this is costng Russia.

    Hint: it is costing way more in indirect cost than in direct costs, especially in the West.

    Extra credit: is it a Russian land grab, or is it something bigger? Follow the money.

  11. Michael Droy

    November 29, 2022 at 5:17 am

    READ: The US is backing down over Ukraine and pointing the finger at Europe is one way to draw attention away from the climb down.

    Europe (which is doing the same) would point to how Europe has suffered enormously from the oil and gas sanctions while US has gained.

    No one is actually going to say that the whole thing was actually a stupid US idea in the first place to pressurise Russia using millions of Ukrainians as cannon fodder

  12. whodunnit

    November 29, 2022 at 5:50 am

    It appears to tie in nicely with the statement from Boris Johnson that Germany and France would have initially preferred that Ukraine capitulate in order to suit their own economic concerns. Now, they feel pressured (embarassed) to provide some aid in order to save face. That aid however is minimal WRT the aid provide by Poland and the UK and reflects their true nature when it comes to European unity ie they are all for unity as long as it doesn’t cost their own country too much in the way of financial or humanitarian effort. As long as the US provides they are more than happy to sit back and let them. It is as it’s always been.

  13. Yrral

    November 29, 2022 at 8:13 am

    What should US taxpayers protect White Supremacists in Europe,were minorities are treated badly in Poland, Italy, Hungary,we do not protect racist trash in the US,we should not do it in Europe

  14. Ebbi Weber

    November 29, 2022 at 10:30 am

    America’s power is mostly based on military intimidation. There has not been a decade in the last 80 years where America has not been fighting a self-made and useless war. We can thus conclude that war is an industry in the US. This is supported by the size of the military budget and presence of militarism in every aspect of American life. The otherwise useless find employment with the military and many jobs directly and indirectly depend on military spending. So every dollar “spent on Ukraine” benefits the US home economy. Where and by whom are the Himars systems assembled? So we are talking about a gigantic stimulus to the US economy pretending that it’s “helping out friends”. Politicians can’t say this openly because stimulus is not a well-received concept in an inflationary environment. It is true that Europe is too reluctant. However, there are many factors to be considered. Firstly, Europe has a more peaceful stance and will also need to live with Russia after it has collapsed. Secondly, Europe is not as homogenous as the US with many different national opinions and priorities when it comes to the war. Thirdly, and most importantly, Europe has traditionally provided less military support (where it lacks modern capacity anyway) and focused on providing resources for humanitarian and rebuilding efforts. So Europe’s time will come when Ukraine needs to be rebuilt. This will be more expensive than anything the US has been providing and it will be less self-serving.

  15. Cold

    November 29, 2022 at 10:41 am

    It is simply the arrangements of Germany and France with Russia from Deauville that make these countries count on the defeat of Ukraine, because there would be a greater chance of getting rid of the US from Europe. In contrast, Poland, the Baltic and Scandinavian states support Ukraine much more with equipment, administration and services, because they do not want to be forced to stand in an alliance against the USA. Poland is currently arming itself the fastest.

  16. Tom S

    November 29, 2022 at 10:57 am

    As a veteran, I’m kind of baffled by this column. This is not a time to be transactional or compare US contributions vs. others.
    Russia and Putin only understand power. Putin won’t stop. He’s a danger to the world.
    Americans have always been better off in our western hemisphere for most of our history.
    This is no time to be short sighted.

  17. jeff

    November 29, 2022 at 11:02 am

    We are spending billions that are needed here at home. Our “elected” officials see no end to the monies that they may spend not thinking that they are breaking the back of American taxpayers. America needs to think America First.

  18. TG

    November 29, 2022 at 11:20 am

    This is an over-simplification of “security”. We aren’t close to Ukraine’s border, but we are mere miles from Russia’s northern border. Every other pro-russian state is watching our response, and if we were to allow Putin to walk in and take more land while we selfishly sit and handle our own issues (which are not new and completely frivolous compared to other nations being invaded and civilians losing their lives for no reason whatsoever), chances are they will become emboldened and begin attacking our allies, which will then stretch us from financing a single conflict to participating in multiple… Korea, Japan, Taiwan, fortifying eastern EU countries…
    Saying that we’re 4500 miles from the Ukrainian border so that means this conflict doesn’t affect us is inconsiderate, irresponsible, and ignorant.
    And who says we don’t have agreements with the rest of the EU for future relief in services and products that aren’t just straight-up financial?

  19. Dan Jenson

    November 29, 2022 at 11:28 am

    Stop sending hundred of billions to corrupt Eastern Europeans while Americans struggle to make ends meet.

    Stop employing propaganda techniques against our own people vis a vis causes of ukraine war, COVID, mass vaccination, internal threats to democracy and etc.

    Stop printing trillions, causing inflation and then blaming “corporate greed”. Our country has become a matrix of lies

  20. David Chang

    November 29, 2022 at 12:33 pm

    God bless people in the world.

    Mr. Davies tell about the policy debate from 60 years ago that Democratic Party never talk about, but people in Europe still don’t assume obligation to God.

    The reason of question is that most people do not obey Ten Commandments, while some people assume the obligation. But we shalt not covet other people’s life or property.

    After Mr. Davis’ question, we have the more serious question, which is that Democratic Party cooperate with Communist Party to make socialism warfare. People who worship democracy and progressive bring war to make other people living in poor and sorrow, and will make socialism International to be true. This is the policy of people’s liberation society in Communist Manifesto.

    God bless America.

  21. Kelvin Clarke

    November 29, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    Another fake narrative for Daniel Davis to justify capitulation to the Russians. Poland, the Czechs, the Baltic States are starving of energy, have accepted millions of refugees and are donating anything of value that they can.
    And Daniel Davis has the revolting effrontery to claim that the USA is doing all the heavy lifting. Tell that to the Ukrainian women who have been systematically raped by the Russians.

  22. Paul

    November 29, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    Now I’m really starting to wonder if this guy is fed talking points from Putin. His ideas are so outlandish and lopsided and lacking a western perspective. Just like some of the Russian trolls commenting here.

    Here are a few important angles Putin “forgot” to mention in the note he delivered to Davis.

    1. The morale angle
    Putins army attacked their sibling nation. Ukraine is like Russias kid brother. They share much in language, history and culture. The shock of the devastating attack followed by the brutal torture, kidnappings and murders of civilian Ukrainians, have chilled me to my bones and hopefully many others. We should unite in western support to stop this brutal despot for that reason alone.

    2. Future lessons learned from the outcome
    The western (US+Europe) reaction, unity and the ultimate outcome of this war, is being closely monitored by not only Russia, but also China and others. If the future lesson to extract is that Russia was able to wear down western will to support Ukraine and thus defeat Ukraine in the end, then expect Russia to expand their ambitions when they regain their strength. Kasakhstan have all but shown Putin the middle finger during this war and would be vulnerable when Putin seeks to force them back in their place (under Moscows heel). Other former soviet republics, save from those that joined Nato, are also easy pickings. China are also closely watching to find lessons that can guide them in their goal of forcing Taiwan to join China under the Communist partys leadership. Let’s make sure the future lesson from this war will have a chilling effect on dictators ambition to expand their borders.

    3. Strategic effect
    If US seeks to uphold its current position as the the most powerful and influential nation in the world, as the size of the US defence budget suggests, then supporting Ukraine is a cost effective way to wear down a strategic competitor.

    4. Ability to contribute
    Much of Europe are already paying a high price for the necessary boycott of Russian oil and gas. The boycott is costly and damaging to European economy, while US economy is a net benefactor. European stocks of ammunition and military equipment are smaller than those of USA, so even if Europe wanted to it could not deliver on the same scale as the US.

    5. US – Europe relations
    After 9/11 USA’s European allies stood beside US in Afghanistan and even in the failed clean up efforts after the wrongfully decision to blame and target Irak. European allies payed in lives and cash for their support of US. For USA now to take a cold and transactional approach to this conflict is guaranteed to crush transatlantic trust for a long time. If the US is looking for an opportunity to strengthen relationship with Europe after the Trump years, then shared goals in this conflict offers a unique possibility to find common ground, strengthen Nato and revive the partnership. Autocratic rulers will take notice.

  23. Steven

    November 29, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    Trumpian America First, America Now, America Only point of view.

    That is not Trump’s “point of view.”

    What’s yours? America the door mat of the world?

  24. David Chang

    November 29, 2022 at 11:02 pm

    God bless people in the world.

    Before you accuse Mr. Davis and promote warfare (murder people), you should think about whether you obey Ten Commandments, and think about Eisenhower and President Trump remind you: worshiping God, obeying Ten Commandments, to stop socialism warfare.

    Then think about the history and morality of NATO that Mr. Davis say, because we should combat with limited warfare by the justice of God, but we should not make total war like Nazis, Social Democratic Party, and Communist Party.

    The policy debate from sixty years ago is the same as today, it is about people, money, and time.

    NATO Strategy documents 1949-1969 XVII:
    “1954 a total of 96 NATO divisions after 90 days of mobilisation, with almost half of the divisions to be ready at the start of hostilities – but fulfilling these goals proved financially and politically impossible for the members of the Alliance.”

    God bless America.

  25. Ralph

    November 30, 2022 at 3:08 am

    Housing three million Ukranian refugees (or more) in Europe is not cheap either. So please, DD, if calculating at all, do not forget these costs.

    The Kiel institute does not research the price tags put on equipment by supplying nations (and companies).
    So comparing price tags on stuff (list price when purchased/ actual list price/ political list price/ estimated price) might explain some differences.
    It could be like insulin prices. In Europe you get them at a fraction of US prices.
    So, it might be better to compare equipment delivered, instead of price tags.
    And take into consideration, how much equipment each country has in stock and is able to produce annually.
    You will get a better picture of each countries effort.

  26. Jiri Novacek

    November 30, 2022 at 3:46 am

    Russian aim is to weaken and, in ideal situation, destroy USA (also from within by inciting conflicts, by cutting relations allies etc.). Ukraine is not the final russian goal, it is just a tool. Putin always declared that detaching Ukraine from Russia was a sinister american plan how to weaken russia and russia “wants it back” to be on par with US.

    Btw. Kelvin Clarke, you are absolutely right about “hidden” costs Europe is paying, feeding millions of women and children who had to escape Ukraine is not a cheap or easy taks and it is by far not the only burder Europe has to carry.

  27. Roger Bacon

    November 30, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    Daniel Davis’ articles get’s 10x more comments than all the other authors on this site combined. At this point I think it’s just outrage-clickbait.

  28. Ben d'Mydogtags

    December 1, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Most of what is labeled “US spending on the Ukraine war” is not actually “aid to Ukraine.” It is actually federal subsidies to US weapons-makers and the defense-industrial complex. The majority of “Ukraine” money is to replenish aging US stockpiles sent to Ukraine or to backfill weapons sent by allies to Ukraine. Big US defense contractors are getting tens of billions in contracts. Poland, Romania, etc. are getting new F16s and M1 tanks. Ukraine gets the hand-me-downs. Everybody’s happy… except US taxpayers (who have not yet discovered just how they are being fleeced.)

  29. Dan Farrand

    December 2, 2022 at 2:56 pm

    Europe by far is paying the greatest Cost for US intrigues against Russia and the destruction of whatever kind of entity Ukraine was.

    The economic costs to Europe have reached $700 billion and that is just the costs that can be counted. The Europeans have signed up for economic and cultural suicide and now you want them to also buy the bullet ?

    The Europeans are rightly starting to complain. It may even be that in a year or 2, they will turn on the Americans and bite the hand that holds the leash.

    It appears that perhaps there is no force on earth that cause the Germans to recall their self respect. That will not hold true for the rest of Europe. In the end, they will opt for survival and find a way to make up with Russia and put a new leash on the Poles and Baltic states.

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