In an emphatic rejection of Russian threats of retaliation and escalation, Joe Biden has called for a massive $33 billion package of military and economic aid to Ukraine, more than doubling the level of US assistance to date.
The president has asked Congress to approve over $20 billion in military aid, which includes everything from heavy artillery and armored vehicles to improved intelligence sharing, cyber warfare tools, and a slew of new anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
Biden also requested $8.5 billion in economic aid and $3 billion in humanitarian aid for Kyiv, as well as funds to help increase US food crop and strategic mineral production to offset the impact of the Ukraine conflict on global supplies. The total of $33 billion is more than double the last supplemental request approved by Congress in March, and dwarfs Ukraine’s and many other countries’ entire defense budgets. The US president stated that it was aimed at assisting Ukraine in repelling renewed Russian offensives in the country’s east and south, as well as transitioning to ensuring the country’s long-term security needs.
It comes despite Russian warnings that increased western weapons supplies to Ukraine would jeopardize European security, that western intervention could result in immediate Russian retaliation, and that nuclear conflict is a possibility.
Biden argued for western aid, claiming that if Putin is not stopped in Ukraine, he will continue to threaten global peace and stability.
The president framed the request primarily in terms of defending Ukraine, and he did not explicitly repeat his defense secretary’s statement earlier this week that one of the US goals in Ukraine was to weaken Russia in order to prevent it from attacking other countries.
“Despite the Kremlin’s alarmist rhetoric, the facts are clear for all to see. We’re not going to attack Russia. Biden stated, “We’re assisting Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression.” He added, however, that the cost was “a small price to pay to punish Russia and aggression and reduce the risk of future conflicts.”
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s official spokesman, warned on Thursday that increasing Western supplies of heavy weapons to Kyiv would jeopardize European security.
The accusation that Biden is fighting a proxy war was dismissed by Biden, who described the claim as part of the Kremlin’s domestic propaganda to explain why Russian forces have been unable to achieve their objectives.
Measures to strengthen the Justice Department’s hand in pursuing Kremlin-aligned oligarchs, seizing their assets, and using the proceeds to support the Ukraine war effort are included in the package of proposals the administration is sending to Congress.
The president made the announcement while UN Secretary-General António Guterres was in Ukraine, where he described the conflict as a “21st-century absurdity.”
On his first visit to Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24, Guterres was touring Borodianka, where Russian forces are accused of massacring civilians before withdrawing, ahead of talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Guterres backed an investigation by the International Criminal Court into possible war crimes in Ukraine in nearby Bucha, where dozens of civilian bodies, some with their hands tied, were discovered this month. “I implore the Russian Federation to accept and cooperate with the International Criminal Court,” he said.
The Russian invasion has had a devastating humanitarian impact. Since the attack began, nearly 5.4 million Ukrainians have fled their country, with more than 55,000 leaving in the last 24 hours, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR. While the outflow has slowed significantly since March, the conflict in Ukraine is expected to produce 8.3 million refugees by the end of the year, according to the UN.
On Thursday, Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, warned the west to stop encouraging Ukraine to strike targets inside Russian territory, saying it was “testing our patience.” In recent days, multiple targets in Russian provinces bordering Ukraine have been hit, including fuel and ammunition depots.