The US House of Representatives has approved a fresh $40bn aid package for Ukraine, after President Joe Biden called for more funds to help Kyiv thwart Russia’s three-month-old invasion.
Legislators passed the Ukraine bill by 368 to 57 votes on Tuesday, providing $7bn more than Biden’s request in April.
It would give Ukraine military and economic assistance, help regional allies, replenish weapons the Pentagon has shipped overseas, and provide aid to address global food shortages caused by the war’s crippling of Ukraine’s normally robust production of wheat and other agricultural crops.
The measure was backed by every voting Democrat and by nearly three out of four Republicans. House debate reflected a perspective, shared broadly by both parties, that there is more at stake than simply standing by Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian people, they need us, they are in desperate need of our support,” said Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “Vladimir Putin and his cronies must be held responsible. This bill does that by protecting democracy, limiting Russian aggression and strengthening our own national security.”
Republican Representative Kay Granger, the top Republican on that committee, said the passage of the bill sent an important message to the US’s rivals.
“As China, Iran and North Korea watch our response, we must show the world that America stands firm with its allies and will do what is necessary to protect our interests abroad,” she said.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to act quickly. Biden had called on Congress to move swiftly so he could sign the bill into law before existing defence aid for Ukraine runs out later in May.
‘Speed it up’
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, appealed for assistance to both Democratic and Republican senators at their weekly party lunches on Tuesday.
“It was a very heartfelt and easy to understand message: Their people are dying, they’re running out of supplies and ammunition. They need our help quickly. Thank you for all our help. Please. Speed it up,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said after Markarova spoke.
Republican Senator Rob Portman, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and leader of the Senate’s Ukraine caucus, said he expected enough Republican backing for the bill to get it through the Senate.
“I think it will pass. There will be significant Republican support,” he said.
The package includes $6bn for security assistance, including training, equipment, weapons and support; $8.7bn to replenish stocks of US equipment sent to Ukraine, and $3.9bn for European Command operations.
In addition, the legislation authorises a further $11bn in presidential drawdown authority, which allows the president to authorise the transfer of articles and services from US stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency. Biden had asked for $5bn.
It also authorises $4bn in foreign military financing to provide support for Ukraine and other countries affected by the crisis.
The US has rushed more than $3.5bn worth of armaments to Ukraine since Russia invaded, including howitzers, anti-aircraft Stinger systems, anti-tank Javelin missiles, ammunition and recently-disclosed “Ghost” drones.
The new aid package also includes humanitarian assistance – $5bn to address food insecurity globally due to the conflict and nearly $9bn for an economic support fund for Ukraine.
It provides hundreds of millions of dollars to help refugees and fund efforts to seize the assets of oligarchs linked to Putin, whose government has called the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”.
The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions of Ukrainians from their homes and reduced cities to rubble. Moscow has little to show for it beyond a strip of territory in the south and marginal gains in the east.