Late Wednesday, the Senate passed major legislation to resurrect a World War II-era program that will allow President Joe Biden to send weapons and other supplies to Ukraine more quickly in the wake of Russia’s bloody invasion.
Senators quickly rallied behind the Lend-Lease proposal after Ukraine’s military demonstrated its ability to fend off Russian troops shelling Ukrainian cities and towns since late February. During World War II, the Lend-Lease program was a game-changer because it allowed the United States to quickly resupply the Allies without having to go through time-consuming procedural hoops. Lawmakers are employing extraordinary tactics last seen during the twentieth century’s most significant global conflict — yet another sign that the United States and its European allies believe Russia’s invasion poses an existential threat to liberal order.
It’s also an indication that the Western world now believes Ukraine can defeat the Russian invaders. Nearly $14 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine was recently approved by Congress, with some of it already disbursed. Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, the State Department announced an additional $100 million in funding for Javelin missiles and other equipment, bringing the total security assistance to $1.7 billion.
The need to resupply Ukraine’s armed forces has become more urgent in recent days as the brutality of Russia’s war has been exposed, with lawmakers responding quickly to urgent pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Last weekend, horrific images of civilians laying dead in the streets with their hands tied behind their backs emerged from Bucha, prompting Western leaders to escalate their accusations of war crimes.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the massacres “pure evil” in a brief speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday night, adding that Russian troops are committing “genocide” in Ukraine.
“When we murder wantonly innocent civilians because of who they are, whether it be their religion, their race, or their nationality, that is genocide, and Mr. Putin is guilty of it,” Schumer said.
By reducing bureaucratic red tape, the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 would speed up the transfer of critical military equipment and other critical supplies to Ukraine. It permits the de facto gifting of equipment, with provisions requiring recipient countries to repay the United States at a later date.
“As the war in Ukraine progresses, delivering military aid as quickly as possible is critical for Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Putin’s unprovoked attacks,” said New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the effort’s lead Democratic sponsor. “The Kremlin is carrying out horrific assaults on civilian infrastructure across the country, targeting innocent men, women, and children.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the effort’s leading Republican, used the passage of separate legislation as leverage to get the Lend-Lease bill passed. A bipartisan agreement to vote on additional Russia-related legislation, including an embargo on Russian oil imports, is expected to pass on Thursday morning.
Before both chambers leave Washington on Thursday for a previously scheduled two-week recess, it’s unclear whether the House will take up the Senate-passed Lend-Lease legislation. After the Senate passes the Russia trade bill on Thursday morning, the House is expected to pass it.