Washington sought to present a united front against the Russian invasion of Ukraine On Monday, President Joe Biden signed off on a bipartisan measure to restart the World War II-era “lending and rent” program, which helped defeat Nazi Germany, to support Kyiv and its eastern European allies.
The signing comes as the US Congress prepares to unleash more billions to go to war against Russia — with Democrats promising $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid, larger than the $33 billion package Biden requested.
All as a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who seized Victory in Europe Day – the anniversary of Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945 and Russia’s biggest national holiday – to rally his people behind the invasion.
“This assistance has been critical to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden said it was imperative that Congress approve the upcoming aid package for Ukraine to avoid any disruption to military supplies being sent to help fight the war, with a critical deadline coming in 10 days.
“We cannot allow our aid shipments to stall while we wait for more Congressional action,” he said. He urged Congress to act — and “do it quickly.”
In a letter delivered to Capitol Hill on Monday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken urged Congress to act before May 19, when existing withdrawal funds will run out. The Pentagon has already sent or committed to providing all but $100 million of weapons and equipment worth $3.5 billion it could send to Ukraine from its existing stockpiles. They said the final $100 million is expected to be used no later than May 19.
“In short, we need your help,” they said in the letter obtained by The Associated Press. “The ability to draw on existing DoD stockpiles has been an important tool in our efforts to support the Ukrainians in their fight against Russian aggression, allowing us to quickly provide equipment and ensuring a continuous flow of security assistance into Ukraine.”
Biden and Congress’ determination to maintain Ukraine’s support has always been, but also surprising. However, as the months-long war with Russia continues, the bipartisan view of Ukraine will be tested as the United States and allies draw closer to conflict.
The House could vote as soon as this week on the enhanced Ukraine aid package, sending the legislation to the Senate, which is working to install Bridget Brink, Biden’s nominee, as the new ambassador to Ukraine. Tuesday’s lower house schedule referred to Ukraine’s legislation, but it was not clear how strict that would be.
With the president’s party holding a slim majority in the House and Senate, Republican cooperation is favored, if not vital in some cases, to pass the president’s strategy toward the region.
“I think we’ll be able to do that as quickly as possible,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said over the weekend of an emerging aid package. “We have great bipartisan cooperation regarding our support for the struggle for democracy of the people of Ukraine.”
Despite their differences over Biden’s approach to foreign policy and perceived pitfalls against Russia, when it comes to Ukraine, members of the House and Senate have come together to support the president’s strategy.
Lend-and-lease invoice Biden’s signing of the law on Monday revives the strategy of sending military equipment more quickly to Ukraine. He began lending during World War II, and indicated that the United States would become what Franklin D. Roosevelt called “the arsenal of democracy” to help Britain and its allies fight Nazi Germany.
Before signing the bill, Biden said Putin’s “war” was “once again bringing brutal destruction to Europe,” noting the significance of that day.
Biden signed the bill flanked by two Democrats and one Republican, which had broad bipartisan support. It passed through the Senate last month by unanimous agreement, without even needing a formal roll-call vote. It passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives, drawing opposition from only 10 Republicans.
“It’s really important,” Biden said of bipartisan support for Ukraine. “Did not matter.”
One of the bill’s main Republican sponsors, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, said in a statement that the measure would give Ukraine “the upper hand against Russia, and I am pleased that America serves as a democratic arsenal for this important partner.”
Other measures, including efforts to cut off Russian oil imports into the United States and calls to investigate Putin for war crimes, have also received widespread support, although some lawmakers have pushed Biden to do more.
“As President Putin and the Russian people celebrate Victory Day today, we see Russian forces committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, because they are fighting a brutal war that is causing so much needless suffering and destruction,” the White House press secretary said. Jane Psaki. She said Putin was “distorting” history to try to “justify his unjustified and unjustified war”.
Biden acknowledged that his request for more military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine should be separated from the money he has also sought from Congress to address the COVID-19 crisis at home.
The separation of the two funding requests would be a setback for the president’s push for more COVID-19 spending, but a signal of the political realities of Congress.
Congressional Republicans are resisting spending more money at home as the pandemic crisis moves into a new phase, and Biden did not want to delay money for Ukraine by trying to discuss the issue further.
Biden said congressional leaders in both parties have told him that keeping the two spending packages tied would slow down the business.
“We cannot afford to delay this vital war effort,” Biden said in the statement. “Then, I am willing to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the Ukrainian aid bill will reach my office immediately.”
As the boosted Ukraine package makes its way through the House and Senate, with a vote possible soon, lawmakers show no signs of backing down. Countless lawmakers took weekend excursions to the region to see the devastation wrought by the war on Ukraine and neighboring countries, as more than 5 million refugees have fled the country.
Rather than fight spending abroad — as has been an increasingly common view during the Trump era — some lawmakers in both parties want to increase the amount of U.S. aid sent to Ukraine.
Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Lolita C. Baldur, and Will Visert contributed to this report.