WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden asked Congress Thursday for $33 billion to bolster Ukraine’s fight against Russia, signaling a growing and far-reaching U.S. commitment as the Moscow invasion and international tensions it has inflamed. They show no signs of letting up.

The package it has about $20 billion in defense spending for Ukraine and US allies in the region and $8.5 billion to support the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by providing services and paying salaries. There is $3 billion in global food and humanitarian programs, including money to help Ukrainian refugees who have fled to the US and to encourage American farmers to grow wheat and other crops to replace the vast amounts of food that normally produces Ukraine.

The package, which administration officials estimated would last five months, is more than double the size of the initial $13.6 billion relief measure that Congress enacted early last month and is now nearly exhausted. With the bloody war entering its third month, the move was designed to signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that US weapons and other sources of assistance are not going away.

“The world must and will hold Russia accountable,” Biden said. “And as long as the assaults and atrocities continue, we will continue to provide military assistance.”

Zelenskyy thanked the US in his late-night video address to his nation. “President Biden rightly said today that this step is not cheap,” he said. “But the negative consequences for the whole world of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and against democracy are so massive that US support is necessary by comparison.”

Biden’s request to Congress comes with powerful Russian offensives underway in eastern and southern Ukraine, and Zelenskyy’s pleas for offensive and long-range weapons. The The United States and others have pledged to increase deliveries of such equipment.and summaries of the Biden plan mention artillery, armored vehicles, and anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons and ammunition.

Biden said the new package “addresses the needs of the Ukrainian military for the crucial weeks and months ahead” and begins a transition to longer-term security assistance that “will help Ukraine deter and continue to defend against Russian aggression.

The proposal also comes as Russia has halted gas supplies to two NATO allies, Poland and Bulgaria, raising anxiety that the war and its repercussions, one way or another, may eventually spread elsewhere.

Biden pledged that the United States would work to support its allies’ energy needs, saying, “We will not allow Russia to intimidate or blackmail our way out of sanctions.”

Bipartisan support in Congress for Ukraine is strong, and there is no doubt lawmakers will approve the aid. But Republicans said they were examining details of the proposal, including its balance between defense and other spending, and would not reflexively support Biden’s $33 billion figure.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican leader in the Senate, said that while Republicans are committed to helping Ukraine, “it’s a pretty impressive number.”

Biden’s $1 billion request is more than half of the $60 billion proposed budgets for next year for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development.

The $20 billion defense portion of Thursday’s package is equal to about a third of Russia’s total military budget and far exceeds Ukraine’s $6 billion defense spending. Both figures are for 2021 and were compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Institute, a Swedish organization that studies defense issues.

Biden has proposed $800 billion for the Pentagon for next year.

According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, the United States has spent about $2.2 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 11, 2001.

The biggest potential hurdles in Congress are Democrats’ desire to also consider billions more to fight the pandemic, and a campaign by the GOP to force an election-year vote on renewing some immigration-era restrictions. Trump that will likely divide the Democrats.

But the combination of those ingredients produces a complicated political concoction that could put a damper on Ukraine’s money when every day counts for kyiv’s outnumbered forces. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., has said he wants to combine Ukraine and COVID-19 spending (virus money gets only lukewarm Republican support), but was silent on that question on Thursday.

Biden appeared to open the door to letting the Ukraine move go forward separately, which would speed up his pace. “They can do it separately or together,” Biden said, “but we need them both.”

Biden called on lawmakers Thursday to provide $22.5 billion for vaccines, treatments, tests and aid to other countries in ongoing efforts to contain COVID-19.

But that request, which he also made last month, seems symbolic. In a compromise with Republicans, Senate Democrats have already agreed to lower that to $10 billion, and they seem unlikely to revive the higher amount.

Biden also asked Congress on Thursday for new powers to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs, saying the United States was seizing luxury yachts and homes from “bad guys.” He proposed letting the government use the proceeds from the sale of those properties to help the people of Ukraine.

The president wants lawmakers to make it a crime to “knowingly or intentionally possess proceeds obtained directly from corrupt dealings with the Russian government,” double the statute of limitations for foreign money laundering offenses to 10 years, and expand the definition of “extortion.” ” under US law to include efforts to evade sanctions.

In recent weeks, the US and its global allies have sanctioned dozens of oligarchs and their relatives, along with hundreds of Russian officials involved in or believed to support their invasion of Ukraine. The White House says the new tools will toughen the impact of sanctions on Russia’s economy and its ruling class by making sanctions harder to evade.

Of the new money Biden is requesting for military purposes, $6 billion would be to directly arm Ukraine and $5.4 billion to replace US supplies sent to the area. There is also $4.5 billion for other security assistance to Ukraine and US allies and $2.6 billion for the continued deployment of US forces to the region.

The proposed spending also has $1.2 billion to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing to the US with cash assistance, English language instruction, and help school districts with Ukrainian students. There is $1.6 billion for global food programs to offset shortages caused by the impact of the war on Ukraine’s food production.

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Associated Press writers Chris Megerian, Fatima Hussein, Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.




Reference-www.boston25news.com

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