The US has sought to portray a united front against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure to reboot the World War II-era “lend-lease” program, which helped defeat Nazi Germany, to bolster Kyiv and Eastern European allies.
The signing comes as US Congress is poised to unleash billions more dollars to fight the war against Russia — with Democrats preparing $57 billion in military and humanitarian aid, larger than the $47 billion package Biden has requested.
It all serves as a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who yesterday seized on Victory in Europe Day — the anniversary of Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945 and Russia’s biggest patriotic holiday — to rally his people behind the invasion.
“This aid has been critical to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield,” Biden said on Monday (Tuesday AEST) in a statement.
Biden said it was urgent that Congress approve the next Ukraine assistance package to avoid any interruption in military supplies being sent to help fight the war, with a crucial deadline coming in 10 days.
“We cannot allow our shipments of assistance to stop while we await further Congressional action,” he said. He urged Congress to act — and “to do so quickly”.
In a letter delivered to Capitol Hill on Monday, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Congress to act before May 19, when the existing drawdown funds run out. The Pentagon has already sent or committed all but $144 million of the $5 billion in weapons and equipment it can send to Ukraine from its existing stockpiles. And that final $144 million is expected to be used no later than May 19, they said.
“In short, we need your help,” they said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. “The ability to draw upon existing DoD stocks has been a critical tool in our efforts to support the Ukrainians in their fight against Russian aggression, allowing us to quickly source equipment and ensure a sustained flow of security assistance to Ukraine.”
The resolve from Biden and Congress to maintain support for Ukraine has been lasting, but also surprising. Still, as the months-long war with Russia grinds on, the bipartisan showing for Ukraine will be tested as the US and allies are drawn closer toward the conflict.
The lend-lease bill that Biden signed into law Monday revives the World War II-era strategy to more quickly send military equipment to Ukraine. Launched during World War II, it signalled the US would become what Franklin D. Roosevelt called the “arsenal of democracy”, helping Britain and the allies fight Nazi Germany.
Before signing the bill, Biden said “Putin’s war” was “once more bringing wanton destruction of Europe,” drawing reference to the significance of the day.
“It really matters,” Biden said of the bipartisan support for Ukraine. “It matters.”
Other measures, including efforts to cut off Russian oil imports to the US and calls to investigate Putin for war crimes, have also gained widespread support, though some lawmakers have pushed Biden to do even more.
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