Vox reported Saturday that the celebration, hosted by the Ukrainian Embassy last week, took place in downtown D.C. at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, located less than a mile from the White House, and that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was in attendance.
The invitation said the event was “supported by” Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Pratty & Whitney, and Lockheed Martin — their logos emblazoned on the invite, reportedly prompting some observers to “laugh out loud.”
“It’s really bizarre to me that they would put that on an invitation,” a think-tank expert told Vox’s Jonathan Guyer. An academic also told Guyer, “The fact that they don’t feel sheepish about it, that’s interesting.”
“The explicit sponsorship indicates how intimate major military contractors have become with Ukraine, and how much they stand to gain from the war,” Guyer wrote, adding:
The invitation is a clear expression of how the war in Ukraine has been good for business. As Ukraine fights a defensive war against Russia’s brutal invasion, Ukrainians in Washington have been pushing for the US to send Ukraine more weapons. So far, President Joe Biden’s administration has committed a substantial $19.3 billion of military assistance since February.
The four companies sponsoring the party produce missile defense systems and anti-tank missiles that the Biden administration has poured into Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022.
Defense contractors’ stocks have soared since the war began. Lockheed stock is up 38 percent, according to Vox. The companies either declined to comment or did not respond to queries from Vox.
The Ukrainian Embassy, however, was not shy about publicizing the event.
On their Facebook page, they posted photos from the event — including one of Milley, along with a post that said:
Ukrainian Armed Forces Day in Washington [is] an opportunity to once again remind the world about the courage and the price paid by Ukraine for shared democratic values [and] a chance to express gratitude to our strategic partners for profound aid to Ukraine and the U.S. leadership for creation international coalition to support our country.
According to the post, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Laura Cooper was in attendance, as well as other defense, White House, and congressional officials, international military attachés, and “representatives of the defense industry” and the Ukrainian community.
A former Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) adviser told Vox that defense contractors sponsoring a party for Ukrainian forces who they are essentially profiting from is a bad look.
“Sustaining American popular support is absolutely essential for Ukraine’s continued defense,” Matt Duss, who is now a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellow, said. “So Ukrainian diplomats should probably think harder about how it looks for them to be throwing parties with the defense contractors who are making bank off of this horrible war.”
Bill Hartung, a researcher at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told Vox, “I can’t imagine another situation where the contractors would sponsor an event for a country that they’re arming in the middle of a war.”
Hartung added, “It’s one thing to support Ukraine to defend itself, which I think is certainly legitimate…But I think the companies want to go beyond that. They want to cash in on this reputationally.”
The companies stand to benefit in the long-term from the war, as the U.S. seeks to replenish its stocks sent to Ukraine, and as European nations want to boost theirs.
The Biden administration has said it will support Ukraine in its fight against Russia for “as long as it takes.”
Congress has passed $68 billion in taxpayer funds for overall aid for Ukraine just this year alone, and could pass tens of billions more before the year’s end. The Biden administration has asked Congress for $38 billion more, before the end of the year, anticipating that Republicans may tighten spending on Ukraine when they take control in January.