Biden announces another huge Ukraine defense package and new refugee program
Washington DC — President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that the US will send Ukraine another $800 million in security assistance to help it stave off Russia's renewed offensive in the country's eastern Donbas region.
The tranche of defense aid, which follows a similar $800 million package last week, will include more heavy artillery and offensive weaponry that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested as the war shifts into a ground conflict that could go on for months.
The package brings the total amount of US defense assistance for Ukraine since the war began to $3.4 billion, a sign of the Biden administration's desire to see the small eastern European democracy survive Russia's unprovoked assault.
"We're not sitting on the funding that Congress has provided for Ukraine. We're sending it directly to the frontlines of freedom," Biden said in a speech from the White House during which he announced the US would provide Ukraine with an additional $500 million in humanitarian aid.
The latest military assistance, he said, includes dozens of howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition for the long-range ground weapons, as well as more drones.
Biden, however, said he's "exhausted" his drawdown authority to approve more aid for Ukraine and planned to ask Congress next week to expand his ability to continue to send assistance. He also announced that the US was banning any Russian ships from American ports and an additional $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government.
He said that Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be betting that the West will lose its focus and resolve as the war drags on and vowed that "we're going to prove him wrong."
He continued: "We will not lessen our resolve. We're going to continue to stand with the brave and proud people of Ukraine. We will never fail in our determination."
The president additionally announced a new program called Uniting for Ukraine, which will "enable Ukrainians seeking refuge to come directly from Europe to the United States."
"This new humanitarian parole program will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians," Biden tweeted. "This program will be fast. It will be streamlined. And it will ensure the United States honors our commitment to the Ukrainian people."
"This is our responsibility," the US leader said.
After responding initially to Putin's invasion primarily with economic sanctions, which the US and its NATO allies have continued to ratchet up, Biden and other NATO leaders have shown a growing willingness to arm Ukraine as it has become clear the war could be a prolonged one.
"This is our responsibility, it seems to me," he said.
Ukraine's resilience in battle has come as something of a surprise, as has Zelensky's remarkable effectiveness in using western media to rally global support for his country's cause. Zelensky's efforts have prompted the leaders of the world's largest democracies to back up their rhetoric with action.
The new willingness to send Ukraine helicopters, drones, and fighter jets marks a shift away from the West's response in the war's first month when the US scotched a proposal to help facilitate the transfer of Soviet era MiG-29 jets from Poland to Ukraine out of concern that Putin would see the move as escalatory.
As the US and its allies have made the scope of their defense aid clearer in recent days, Putin on Wednesday delivered another ominous and explicit threat after testing a new Russian intercontinental ballistic missile, stating that it should give other countries "food for thought" about arming Ukraine.
Although Biden has ruled out sending US troops to Ukraine, explaining that any direct engagement with Russia would lead to "World War III" with a nuclear power, the White House this week largely brushed off Putin's missile test and comments as bluster.
"We did not deem the test a threat to the United States or its allies," Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday. "And the timing of the scope of Russia's missile tests do not influence our approach to countering Russia's further invasion of Ukraine."
Cover photo: REUTERS