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22 Apr, 2024 23:40

Biden reassures Zelensky on US aid

The American president has vowed to quickly provide more weapons to Ukraine after the Senate passes an emergency spending bill
Biden reassures Zelensky on US aid

US President Joe Biden has pledged to quickly ramp up military and economic aid to Ukraine once Senate lawmakers approve emergency spending legislation that was passed by the House on Saturday.

The $95 billion funding package, including $61 billion for Ukraine, is reportedly expected to advance to a Senate vote on Tuesday. Biden assured Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on Monday that aid shipments will begin rapidly after the bill clears the Senate and comes to the Oval Office for his signature.

“President Biden shared that his administration will quickly provide significant new security assistance packages to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield and air-defense needs,” according to a White House readout of Monday’s phone call with Zelensky. The US leader also underscored Washington’s “lasting commitment to supporting Ukraine as it defends its freedom against Russian aggression.”

While the White House offered few details on Monday’s Biden-Zelensky call, the Ukrainian leader indicated that Kiev will be receiving longer-range missiles. The US previously provided a version of its ATACMS missiles with a striking distance capped at 165 kilometers, seeking to avoid escalations that could occur if Ukrainian forces struck targets deep in Russian territory. The new shipments will include missiles with a range of 300 kilometers, he said.

Kiev and Washington also have started talks on a security cooperation agreement, Zelensky said, adding that the deal could be “truly exemplary.” Ukraine has already signed bilateral security agreements with several NATO members. These ten-year deals stop short of mutual defense commitments, but they pledge long-term military, economic, and political support for the former Soviet republic.

The Biden administration ran out of funding for Ukraine aid after burning through $113 billion in previously approved spending bills. The president’s request for additional funding had been stalled since last October because of opposition from Republican lawmakers, who argued that Biden was merely prolonging Kiev’s conflict with Russia while offering no clear strategy for victory or a peace agreement. Most Republicans voted against the aid bill on Saturday, but House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) overrode his own party by enabling a vote on the bill and pushing it through with unanimous Democrat support.

The new US aid will help Ukraine “maintain financial stability, build back critical infrastructure following Russian attacks, and support reform as Ukraine moves forward on the path of Euro-Atlantic integration,” the White House said. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised eyebrows earlier this month, when he emphatically told reporters at a NATO briefing that Ukraine “will become a member” of the Western military bloc.