Biden will send heavy artillery and other weapons to Ukraine
President Joe Biden on Thursday pledged an additional $1.3 billion in new weapons and economic assistance to help Ukraine in its tenacious but increasingly difficult battle against the Russian invasion, and announced that he will lobby Congress to authorize much more resources to keep the flow of guns, ammunition and cash.
The latest military assistance, the president declared, will be sent “directly to the front lines of freedom.”
“Putin is counting on us losing interest,” Biden said. The Russian president is betting that “Western unity will fracture…and once again we will prove him wrong.”
The new package includes $800 million in military assistance for much-needed heavy artillery, and 144,000 rounds of ammunition and drones for the escalating battle in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The package adds to the roughly $2.6 billion in military assistance that Biden previously approved.
There is also a new direct economic assistance of 500 million dollars for Ukraine that will be used for government salaries, pensions and other programs. That brings the total US economic support to $1 billion since Russia launched the invasion nearly two months ago.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his thanks but said his nation needs even more, up to $7 billion a month to make up for economic losses, in addition to weapons and cash for war.
With thousands of buildings damaged and critical infrastructure reduced to ruins, “we will need hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild,” Zelenskyy said, addressing a World Bank meeting in Washington virtually.
Biden underscored the need for the United States and Western allies to remain resolute in supporting Ukraine amid signs Americans may be growing wary of war.
According to a poll released Thursday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Americans’ desire to get involved in war has waned somewhat. 32% of those consulted say that the United States should have an important role in the conflict. This shows a decrease from 40% last month, although it is slightly higher than the 26% in February. An additional 49% say Washington should have less of a stake.
The president also announced that Russian-affiliated ships would be barred from entering US ports, though that seemed largely symbolic. Russian ships bring in a small amount of the cargo that is left in the United States, and “my guess is that … a good part of it was from tankers carrying Russian oil, which is already banned anyway,” said Colin Grabow, a researcher. studying commerce at the Cato Institute.
Overall, Biden said $6.5 billion in security assistance that Congress approved last month in a $13.6 billion package for Ukraine could “run out” soon. With his most recent announcement, the president has approved some $3.4 billion in military assistance since Feb. 24. The combined congressional total also included some $6.8 billion in direct financial assistance to care for refugees and provide economic assistance to allies in the region impacted by the war, and additional funding for federal agencies to to monitor the implementation of economic sanctions against Russia and provide protection against cyber threats.
“Next week I will have to send Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition deployed without interruption,” Biden said.