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Biden to ask Congress for Ukraine aid tailored to brutal fight

The as-yet-unspecified funding would pay for weapons aimed at helping Ukraine defend its Donbas region

Ground personnel unload weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, and other hardware from the U.S. military delivered on a National Airlines plane at Boryspil Airport near Kyiv on Jan. 25.
Ground personnel unload weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, and other hardware from the U.S. military delivered on a National Airlines plane at Boryspil Airport near Kyiv on Jan. 25. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images file photo)

President Joe Biden on Thursday said he will ask Congress next week for supplemental appropriations to bankroll more military and economic aid for Ukraine.

Biden, speaking at the White House, also announced he has approved spending another $800 million already provided by Congress to send more weapons to Ukraine, including dozens of additional howitzers and drones. That $800 million package will bring to $4 billion the total amount the Biden administration has spent arming Ukraine.

But the president said he is running out of appropriations to help Ukraine and is poised to ask Congress for more.

“Next week. I’m going to have to be sending to Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption to brave Ukrainian fighters and to continue to deliver economic assistance to the Ukrainian people,” Biden said. “My hope is, and my expectation is, that Congress will move and act quickly.”

He did not provide a dollar figure for the forthcoming request. The last package of funds, approved in March as part of the omnibus spending law, amounted to $13.6 billion. Some of that money went to cover U.S. military expenses for bolstering NATO defense in Europe, some was for the State Department and just $3.5 billion was dedicated to arms for Ukraine.

Front-line weapons

Biden warned that the war in Ukraine is entering a new but still brutal phase in the more open countryside of the eastern Donbas region, and he said different kinds of weapons are needed for that terrain.

Last week, Biden announced the latest batch of weapons for Ukraine: $800 million, which would pay for large artillery systems, armored vehicles and more drones — weapons particularly suited, officials said, for the Donbas fight. 

In his remarks on Thursday, Biden said the United States has provided more than 50 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine and that America alone has sent 10 anti-armor weapons such as Javelin missiles for every Russian tank in Ukraine.

“To modernize Teddy Roosevelt’s famous advice: Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin, because we’re sending a lot of those in as well,” Biden said. “We’re not sitting on the funding that Congress has provided for Ukraine. We’re sending it directly to the front lines of freedom.”

The new $800 million tranche of arms for Ukraine that Biden announced Thursday includes 72 155 mm howitzers and 144,000 artillery rounds, plus the vehicles needed to tow the howitzers, the Pentagon said in a statement Thursday.  Also included are more than 121 Phoenix Ghost drones, plus other equipment and spare parts.

Also part of Thursday’s announcement was an additional $500 million in economic aid, Biden said. He also unveiled a plan to welcome more Ukrainian refugees to the United States from European countries. And he said Russian-affiliated ships will no longer be allowed in U.S. ports. 

In a statement, Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said Pelosi expected to receive the funding request next week and to bring it to a floor vote as soon as possible.

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