Biden asks US Congress for $33bn in additional aid to Ukraine

US president says new funds are necessary for Ukraine to continue fighting against ‘brutal’ Russian invasion.

Joe Biden
'The cost of this fight, it's not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly,' US President Joe Biden tells reporters [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

Washington, DC – US President Joe Biden is asking Congress for $33bn to support Ukraine, a massive sum that he says will help Ukrainians continue to fight Russia’s “brutal” invasion that is intensifying in the east of the country.

Speaking to reporters from the White House on Thursday, Biden said assistance to Ukraine is a “small price to pay” to defeat Russia and reduce the possibility of future conflict.

“The cost of this fight, it’s not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” he said. “We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.”

Biden did not specify the amount of money he is seeking, but earlier on Thursday, senior administration officials said the White House wants $33bn in supplemental funding for Ukraine.

Last month, the United States Congress approved $13.6bn in assistance to Kyiv, but the Biden administration has said it already used much of the funds. During the past weeks, Washington has announced large military and government aid packages to Ukraine.

Congress has the authority to allocate money for the executive branch, which dispenses foreign aid. So far, US lawmakers have almost unanimously backed assistance for Ukraine.

“Basically, we’re out of money,” Biden said on Thursday. “And so that’s why today, in order to sustain Ukraine as it continues to fight, I’m sending Congress a supplemental budget request. It’s going to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption to the brave Ukrainian fighters and continue delivering economic and humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people.”

Moscow has repeatedly warned Washington against continuing its military assistance to Kyiv, accusing the US of “pouring oil on the flames” of the war.

The White House announced earlier on Thursday that Biden is also seeking legislation to seize the frozen assets of wealthy Russians and use the forfeited funds to “remediate harms of Russian aggression toward Ukraine”.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a non-binding bill that called for the sale of sanctioned luxury Russian assets and the repurposing of the money for Ukraine reconstruction.

“We’re going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes and other ill-begotten gains … These are bad guys,” Biden said of Russia’s oligarchs. “This legislative package strengthens our law enforcement capabilities to seize property linked to Russia’s kleptocracy.”

The US and its allies have been piling sanctions on the Russian economy, as well as against President Vladimir Putin and elites in his inner circle.

Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after a months-long standoff that saw Moscow amass troops near the Ukrainian borders as Putin demanded an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.

But in recent weeks, Moscow has scaled back its war objectives, shifting its efforts to the eastern Donbas region after failing to capture the Ukrainian capital.

In turn, the US has said it is tailoring its security assistance for Ukraine to what is needed on the eastern battlefield, sending drones and long-range artillery systems that the Pentagon said are better suited to the region’s flat terrain.

Biden said on Thursday that the US has sent 10 anti-armour weapons systems for each Russian tank in Ukraine. “Much of the new equipment we’ve announced in the past two weeks has already gotten to Ukraine, where it can be put to direct use on the battlefield,” he told reporters.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv, pledging to continue to support Ukraine in its fight.

Austin said Washington wants to “see Russia weakened” after the war. Earlier this week, the Department of State also said the US is seeking a “strategic defeat” for Russia in Ukraine that would leave Moscow weaker and more isolated internationally.

But on Thursday, Biden said the US only aims to hold Russia accountable for the invasion.

“We’re not attacking Russia; we’re helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression,” he said. “And just as Putin chose to launch this brutal invasion, he could make the choice to end this brutal invasion.”

Source: Al Jazeera