By ALAN FRAM, ZEKE MILLER and AAMER MADHANI
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday for an additional $33 billion to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion, a signal that the U.S. is prepared to mount a robust, long-term campaign to bolster Kyiv and weaken Moscow as the bloody war enters its third month with no sign of abating.
Biden’s latest proposal — which the White House said was expected to support Ukraine’s needs for five months — has more than $20 billion in military assistance for Kyiv and for shoring up defenses in nearby countries. There is also $8.5 billion in economic aid to help keep Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government functioning and $3 billion for food and humanitarian programs around the world.
The assistance package, which heads to Congress for consideration, would be more than twice as large as the initial $13.6 billion in defense and economic aid for Ukraine and Western allies enacted last month that is now almost exhausted. It was meant to signify that the U.S. is not tiring of helping to stave off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to expand his nation’s control of its neighbor, and perhaps beyond.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly,” Biden said. “It’s critical this funding gets approved and as quickly as possible.”
The request comes with the fighting, now in its ninth week, sharpening in eastern and southern parts of the country and international tensions growing as Russia cuts off gas supplies to two NATO allies, Poland and Bulgaria.
Biden promised that the U.S. would work to support its allies’ energy needs, saying, “We will not let Russia intimidate or blackmail their way out of the sanctions.”
Biden said the new package “begins the transition to longer-term security assistance” for Ukraine.
There is wide, bipartisan support in Congress for giving Ukraine all the help it needs to fight the Russians, and its eventual approval of assistance seems certain. But Biden and congressional Democrats also want lawmakers to approve billions more to battle the pandemic, and that along with a Republican push to entangle the measure with an extension of some Trump-era immigration restrictions leaves the proposal’s pathway to enactment unclear.