US President Joe Biden announces US$33bn to help Ukraine in war

Washington – United States President Joe Biden is asking Congress for US$33bn (£27bn) in military, economic and humanitarian assistance to support Ukraine “for the next five months”.

Biden said it was “critical” for US lawmakers to approve the package.

The proposal includes more than US$20bn in military aid, US$8.5bn in economic aid and US$3bn in humanitarian aid.

He said the US could not “stand by” after the invasion – but insisted that his country was not “attacking” Russia.

Although the US has already announced help for Ukraine, the proposals are a significant ramping up of aid.

“It’s not cheap,” Biden said on Thursday. “But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen.”

Biden said US military support to Ukraine has so far amounted to ten anti-tank weapons for every tank that Russia has deployed to Ukraine.

Despite his strong rhetoric, Biden said the US was “not attacking Russia”. “We are helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression,” he insisted.

In a letter to Congress, Biden said that even as European Union and Nato allies increase their own “larger” contributions to Ukraine’s defence, the need to provide aid to Ukraine will “require a substantial additional investment on our part”.

“What I want to make clear to the Congress and the American people is this: the cost of failing to stand up to violent aggression in Europe has always been higher than the cost of standing firm against such attacks,” he wrote.

Biden’s first funding request after the war began, which was approved by Congress last month, was less than $14bn.

Last week, President Biden authorised a second US$800m (£642m) military aid package in as many weeks, as well as US$500m (£401m) in direct economic assistance.

The US has moved quickly to help Ukraine since the war began in late February. That includes:

Releasing $3.7bn in total military and security assistance
Deploying more than 100,000 troops to Nato member countries in Europe
Imposing economic sanctions, asset freezes and travel banson hundreds of Russian oligarchs and politicians
Imposing sanctions on Russian banks and defence entities
Blocking key Russian banks from the Swift messaging system
Banning Russian oil imports
Banning the use of domestic airspace by Russian aircraft

The White House on Thursday also proposed making it easier for the US to seize and sell Russian oligarchs’ assets, and transfer their proceeds to Ukraine.

Western allies, including European Union member states, have been working together since March to track down the assets of Russian elites, from artwork and real estate to helicopters and yachts.

According to the White House, the US has now sanctioned and blocked vessels and aircraft worth over US$1bn, while the EU has collectively frozen over US$30bn.

But the new plans laid out by the administration go further, calling for streamlined inter-agency collaboration between the Treasury Department, Justice Department, State Department and Commerce Department.

Thursday’s sanctions measures would allow the US to use the funds from confiscated assets “to remediate harms of Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

The package will “establish new authorities for the forfeiture of property linked to Russian kleptocracy, allow the government to use the proceeds to support Ukraine and further strengthen related law enforcement tools”, the White House said in a statement. (BBC)

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