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President Zelenskyy with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in December. Alamy Stock Photo
US Congress

US approves military aid packages of $61 billion for Ukraine and $13 billion for Israel

The US aid package also allocates more than $9 billion for humanitarian assistance in Gaza and $8 billion in military support for Taiwan

THE US CONGRESS gave final approval to a bill which will deliver a $95 billion (€88.4 billion) aid package to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan last night.

President Joe Biden quickly promised to sign the long-delayed bill and begin delivering fresh supplies this week to the warzone in Ukraine, as Russia makes battlefield gains.

After weeks on infighting, the $61 billion (€57 billion) aid package for Ukraine was finally cleared by the Republican-led House of Representatives last week. The US Senate followed suit this week.

“I will sign this bill into law and address the American people as soon as it reaches my desk tomorrow so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week,” Biden said in a statement shortly after the vote.

Passage of the bill, which also provides much-needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza, Sudan and Haiti, comes after months of acrimonious debate among lawmakers over how or even whether to help Ukraine defend itself.

A similar aid package passed the Senate in February, but had been stalled in the House while Republican Speaker Mike Johnson demanded concessions from Biden on immigration policies, before a sudden recent reversal.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited Washington in December to plead for fresh aid, quickly thanked US lawmakers for passing the bill.

ukraine-president-volodymyr-zelensky-visits-with-us-president-joe-biden-secretary-of-state-tony-blinken-speaker-of-the-house-nancy-pelosi-vp-kamala-harris-and-speaks-before-a-joint-meeting-of-the-u President Zelenskyy with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in December. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Zelensky said on social media that he looks “forward to the bill being signed soon and the next military aid package matching the resoluteness that I always see in our negotiations.”

“Ukraine’s long-range capabilities, artillery, and air defense are critical tools for restoring just peace sooner,” he added.

Biden said the bill’s approval showed America stands “resolutely for democracy and freedom, and against tyranny and oppression,” while the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said it sends a message that the United States “will not turn our back on you”

The Ukraine measure also allows Biden to confiscate and sell Russian assets and provide the money to Kyiv to finance reconstruction, a move that has been embraced by other G7 nations.

The United States has been the chief military backer of Ukraine in its war against Russia, but Congress had not approved large-scale funding for its ally for nearly a year and a half.

The financing of the war has become a point of contention ahead of a presidential election in November that is expected to pit Biden against Trump once again.

‘Strong message to our enemies’

In addition to money for Ukraine, the package earmarks $13 billion (€12.1 billion) for Israel, which is locked in a war with Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz thanked the US Senate for approving the military aid, saying on social media site X that it was “a clear testament to the strength of our alliance and sends a strong message to all our enemies.”

The US approval comes as the war in Gaza enters its 201st day. The Palestinian territory’s health ministry said 34,183 people have been killed in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, most of them women and children.

The US aid package also allocates more than $9 billion (€8.4 billion) for humanitarian assistance in Gaza and elsewhere, and $8 billion (€7.4 billion) in military support for Taiwan as it faces down China.

Ukraine aid ‘within days’

A Pentagon spokesperson told reporters yesterday it could deliver fresh aid to Ukraine “within days”. Ukraine’s military is facing a severe shortage of weapons and new recruits as Moscow exerts constant pressure from the east.

And frontline circumstances are expected to worsen in the coming weeks, with Ukrainian intelligence head Kyrylo Budanov predicting a “rather difficult situation” beginning mid-May.

The debate over Ukraine assistance has highlighted wide divisions between Democrats and Republicans in Congress – but it has also revealed deep fissures within the conservative movement ahead of a likely Biden-Trump showdown in November.

While some hardline Republicans have been wary of sending funds overseas, Biden and the Democrats frame Ukraine aid as an investment in US security against Russian aggression.

© AFP 2024