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Potential government shutdown threatens training and arms deliveries to Ukraine

U.S. officials expect a similar situation this year if government appropriations expire without a new spending deal in place by the end of the month.

Military training and exercises “necessary to achieve and maintain operational readiness and to prepare for and conduct such operations” will be exempt, according to guidance released last week by the Pentagon regarding the potential shutdown. The defense secretary could designate certain activities as essential to national security, according to the guidance.

If Ukrainian training programs are not exempted, they will be forced to stop. American and Western military training has been key to Ukraine’s progress so far in the war; As of August 31, international forces had trained more than 73,000 Ukrainians in Western weapons and tactics, according to Defense Department spokesman Col. Martin O’Donnell. U.S. soldiers are currently training about 200 Ukrainians to operate and maintain the U.S. Army’s M1 Abrams tank in Germany ahead of its scheduled arrival on the battlefield this month.

A shutdown could also delay training for Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, which is expected to begin at a U.S. military base in the coming weeks, Sherwood said.

There is good news for Ukraine: in the event of a shutdown, financing of arms shipments from Defense Ministry stockpiles would continue. The Pentagon can still use the billions of dollars “recovered” in a “revaluation process” after an accounting error revealed that the aid available to send weapons to Ukraine amounted to $6,000. $2 billion from the Defense Department’s own coffers, Sherwood said.

Executing the authority available under a presidential withdrawal, which the Defense Department has used to send billions of dollars of equipment to Ukraine since last year’s invasion, “is not not subject to a time limit” and “can therefore span multiple exercises,” Sherwood says.

But delivery of that equipment could be hampered by furloughs and suspension of DOD activities due to the shutdown, he said.

Funding for new security assistance to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative would also stop, Sherwood said. This means that the Defense Ministry would not be able to award new contracts with the defense industry to manufacture weapons for kyiv.

The news comes as lawmakers’ hopes of reaching an agreement to avoid a shutdown after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 are fading. Major factions of the House Republican conference reached a tentative agreement Sunday to keep the government funded through Oct. 31, but the deal is not expected to pass the Senate.

Meanwhile, the fighting in Ukraine shows no signs of slowing down. The long-awaited spring counter-offensive was slower than expected, with both sides suffering enormous losses.

There are, however, signs that Ukrainian forces are making progress, with Kiev reporting on Monday that its troops had reconquered territory around the eastern town of Bakhmut, including two strategic villages on the city’s southern flank.

Ukraine is expected to receive additional arms shipments this month, including the first of 31 planned U.S. Army M1 Abrams tanks, which officials hope will give Kiev’s forces an advantage in the fight.