Biden Asks Congress For $33B More In Aid to Ukraine
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday for an additional $33 billion to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion, a signal that the U.S. is prepared to mount a robust, long-term campaign to bolster Kyiv and weaken Moscow as the bloody war enters its third month with no sign of abating.
Biden’s latest proposal — which the White House said was expected to support Ukraine’s needs for five months — has more than $20 billion in military assistance for Kyiv and for shoring up defenses in nearby countries. There is also $8.5 billion in economic aid to help keep Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government functioning and $3 billion for food and humanitarian programs to help civilians, including the more than five million refugees created by the war.
This package of assistance will now be considered by Congress. It is more than double the $13.6 billion in defense and economic support for Ukraine and Western allies Congress approved last month. The current amount is almost exhaustible. It was meant to signify that the U.S. is not tiring of helping to stave off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to expand his nation’s control of its neighbor, and perhaps beyond.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly,” Biden said. “It’s critical this funding gets approved and as quickly as possible.”
This request is in response to the intensifying fighting in the eastern and southern regions of the country, and the growing international tensions as Russia cut off gas supplies for two NATO allies, Poland, and Bulgaria.
The support of Congress is broad and bipartisan for Ukraine receiving all necessary assistance to defeat the Russians. Its approval appears certain. But Biden and congressional Democrats also want lawmakers to approve billions more to battle the pandemic, and that along with a Republican push to entangle the measure with an extension of some Trump-era immigration restrictions leaves the proposal’s pathway to enactment unclear.
Learn More Inside Zelensky’s World
Biden asked Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Speaker, to add $22.5 million for vaccines, treatment and assistance to other countries as part of continuing efforts to eliminate COVID-19.
This figure is still a dream, even though it was requested by Biden last month. Senate Democrats reached a deal with Republicans to reduce that amount to $10 billion. Reviving the larger figure would only be a difficult task.
As if acknowledging the political problems the pandemic response is encountering, Biden’s letter to Pelosi said, “I urge the Congress to include this much needed” pandemic spending in the Ukraine package. This language suggested that the White House might find it acceptable to separate the two initiatives if necessary to expedite the Ukraine money.
Biden also asked Congress for Thursday’s approval to grant new powers that would allow him to seize assets held by Russian oligarchs and redirect them.
He wants lawmakers to make it a criminal offense for a person to “knowingly or intentionally possess proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government,” double the statute of limitations for foreign money laundering offenses to 10 years, and expand the definition of “racketeering” under U.S. law to include efforts to evade sanctions.
Biden will ask Congress to authorize the Federal Government to use proceeds from the sale of the assets of sanctioned Russian Oligarchs for the benefit of the Ukrainian people.
Last week, Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Ukraine) addressed the International Monetary Fund leaders and World Bank officials via a virtual address. He called on Central Bank Reserves and sanctioned property to be used for compensation for Ukraine’s losses.
He said that frozen Russian assets “have to be used to rebuild Ukraine after the war as well as to pay for the losses caused to other nations.’’
Janet Yellen (Treasury Secretary) stated that such authorizations would require congressional approval.
Learn More ‘Hope Gives You the Strength to Act.’ Portraits of Russians Risking Everything to Support Ukraine
David Malpass (World Bank President) said that the war has already caused over $60 billion of damage to buildings, and infrastructure. And the IMF in its latest world economic outlook forecast that Ukraine’s economy will shrink by 35% this year and next.
The U.S., its global allies, and hundreds of Russian officials who are involved or considered to be supporting the invasion of Ukraine, have sanctioned numerous oligarchs, their families, and hundreds of Russian officials. The White House says the new tools will toughen the impact of the sanctions on Russia’s economy and its ruling class by making sanctions more difficult to evade.
Biden last week warned that $6.5 billion earmarked for security assistance for Ukraine could soon be “exhausted” and that Congress would need to approve supplemental funding. More than half of the approved money for weapons and equipment for Ukraine’s military has already been drawn down.
Associated Press journalist Fatima HusseinContributed to the report.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME