US orders ‘assurances’ from nations receiving American weapons

President Biden requires foreign governments to adhere to international law in exchange for military aid

In a significant move, US President Joe Biden has issued a memorandum stating that countries receiving American weapons must provide written assurances that they are abiding by international law. The executive order aims to ensure that US military aid is used responsibly and that humanitarian aid reaches civilian populations affected by conflicts. While the order does not specifically target any country, it comes after concerns were raised about Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. This article examines the implications of the memorandum and its potential impact on US foreign policy.

Ensuring compliance with international law

President Biden’s memorandum emphasizes the importance of adherence to international law by foreign governments receiving American weapons. It requires these governments to provide “credible and reliable written assurances” that the weapons will be used in accordance with international law. This move aims to promote accountability and prevent the misuse of US military aid.

Addressing concerns about Israel’s military campaign

The timing of the memorandum raises questions about its connection to Israel’s recent military campaign in Gaza. While the order does not explicitly mention Israel, it comes after prominent Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns about Israel’s adherence to international law during the conflict. Senator Chris Van Hollen, who has been leading the push in Congress for stricter oversight of military aid, welcomed the move as a way to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.

Implications for US-Israel relations

Israel has been the largest recipient of US military aid since 1950, receiving around $3.8 billion annually. The memorandum’s requirement for written assurances puts pressure on Israel to demonstrate its commitment to international law. This move could strain US-Israel relations, as it signals a shift in the US approach to military aid and raises questions about the extent of US support for Israel’s actions in Gaza.

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Remediation and consequences for non-compliance

The memorandum outlines a plan for remediation if issues arise regarding a country’s compliance with international law. This could include refreshing the assurances or suspending further transfers of defense articles or services. The order also requires periodic sharing of information with Congress and the US president. These measures aim to ensure accountability and provide a mechanism for addressing concerns about the misuse of US military aid.

Humanitarian implications

The memorandum also highlights the importance of delivering humanitarian aid to civilian populations affected by conflicts. Foreign governments receiving US military aid must provide assurances that humanitarian aid is reaching those in need. This requirement acknowledges the responsibility of recipient countries to protect civilians and alleviate the suffering caused by conflicts.


President Biden’s memorandum represents a significant step towards ensuring accountability and adherence to international law in the use of US military aid. By requiring written assurances from foreign governments, the US aims to prevent the misuse of weapons and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to affected civilian populations. While the order does not explicitly single out any country, its timing raises questions about its connection to Israel’s recent military campaign in Gaza. This move may have implications for US-Israel relations and signals a shift in the US approach to military aid. Ultimately, the memorandum underscores the importance of responsible and ethical use of weapons in promoting peace and protecting civilian lives.