President Biden announced an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine on Thursday and said it was sending an “unmistakable message” to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin: “He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine.” .”
The latest package brings US aid to Ukrainians to more than $2 billion since the war started eight weeks ago. But as Ukraine’s demand for more advanced weapons — everything from helicopters to more sophisticated anti-aircraft systems — US officials are becoming increasingly critical of exactly what is being shipped. Biden made it clear that details of some of the weaponry were being kept secret, presumably because of increasing Russian threats to intercept and destroy it.
He famously changed Theodore Roosevelt’s rule, saying that the United States would “speak softly and carry a great spear,” a reference to the anti-tank weapon that has been remarkably effective against Russian armor.
Mr. Biden made the announcement, fittingly, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, doing his best to put his spin on Russia’s recent advances to the south and east, including the siege of Mariupol, the Ukrainian port that nearly for two months has suffered a relentless attack by Russian troops.
While reports from the ground suggest the city is under Russian control, with the exception of a steel mill where some Ukrainian troops are still holding out, Mr Biden said “there is no evidence yet” that the city has completely fallen.
In fact, there is little hope that Ukrainian forces can hold any part of Mariupol, and steel mill defenders have acknowledged that they have essentially no supplies to withstand a blockade. President Volodymyr Zelensky this week sought an exchange to ensure safe passage for the civilians and troops trapped there.
Mr. Biden also announced an accelerated program to allow 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the United States and $500 million in direct economic aid to the Ukrainian government, making an official pledge several weeks ago.
While the White House has announced a series of packages to Ukraine, it is now running out of money for more — unless Congress does something.
In his capacity as president, Mr. Biden can authorize the transfer of military equipment from U.S. stocks without Congressional approval in response to an emergency, and Congress approved $3 billion in new funding earlier this year to explicitly support Mr. Biden. to encourage it to do so as part of a $13.6 billion proposal approved in March. In addition to defense funds, the package also included resources to strengthen enforcement of sanctions and humanitarian aid.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said earlier this month that he planned to pursue a bipartisan international aid package that would include both money for the global vaccination effort and additional money for Ukraine.
War between Russia and Ukraine: important developments
The administration will have to formulate a request to jump-start talks on Capitol Hill, and a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said they expected to receive the request next week, when Congress returns from a two-week recess.
“The speaker hopes to raise the request as soon as possible with strong bipartisan support,” said spokesman Drew Hammill.
Republican aides, who had pushed for an increase in military resources in the original package, said a standalone aid package for Ukraine would not resist their conference. But it’s unclear how a broader package like Mr. Schumer’s would pass the Senate, as Republicans have resisted the additional pandemic aid Democrats have sought.
Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson reporting contributed.