Biden wants $33 billion more to help Ukraine fight Russia | Economic news


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Congress for an additional $33 billion to help Ukraine repel the Russian invasion, a signal that the United States is ready to mount a strong, long-term campaign to strengthen 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 to meet Ukraine’s needs for five months – includes more than $20 billion in military assistance for kyiv and to bolster defenses in neighboring countries. There is also $8.5 billion in economic aid to help keep Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government running and $3 billion for food and humanitarian programs around the world.

The assistance package, which is before 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 signed into law last month. , which are now nearly sold out. It meant that the United States never tired of helping to stave off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to extend his country’s control over its neighbor, and perhaps beyond.

“The cost of this fight is not cheap, but giving in to aggression will cost more,” Biden said. “It is essential that this funding be approved and as quickly as possible.”

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The demand comes as fighting, now in its ninth week, intensifies in the east and south of the country and international tensions rise as Russia cuts gas supplies to two NATO allies , Poland and Bulgaria.

Biden pledged the United States would work to meet the energy needs of its allies, saying, “We won’t let Russia bully or blackmail their exit from sanctions.”

Biden said the new package “begins the transition to longer-term security assistance” for Ukraine.

There is broad bipartisan support in Congress to give Ukraine all the help it needs to fight the Russians, and its eventual endorsement of the aid seems certain. But Biden and congressional Democrats also want lawmakers to approve billions more to fight the pandemic, and that’s with a Republican push to tangle the measure with an expansion of some Trump-era immigration restrictions. leaves the path from proposal to enactment uncertain.

Biden asked lawmakers to include an additional $22.5 billion for vaccines, treatments, testing and aid to other countries as they continue efforts to contain COVID-19, saying “we miss supply of therapeutic products”.

But that number, which Biden also asked for last month, seems ambitious. In a compromise with Republicans, Senate Democrats have already agreed to cut that figure to $10 billion, and raising the higher amount would be an uphill battle at best.

Biden said he has no preference whether lawmakers combine virus funding with the Ukraine package or separate them. “They can do it separately or together,” Biden said, “but we need both.”

It suggested a desire by Biden to expedite the passage of money from Ukraine by avoiding the complications of tying it to political fights over COVID-19-related spending and immigration.

Biden also asked Congress on Thursday for new powers to seize and reallocate the assets of Russian oligarchs, saying the United States was seizing luxury yachts and homes from “bad guys.”

He wants lawmakers to criminalize someone ‘knowingly or intentionally possessing proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government’, to double the statute of limitations for foreign money laundering offenses to 10 years and expands the definition of “racketeering” under U.S. law to include efforts to evade sanctions.

Biden also asked Congress to authorize the federal government to use proceeds from the sale of seized assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs to help the people of Ukraine.

In a virtual address to the heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for proceeds from sanctioned assets and Central Bank reserves to be used to compensate Ukraine for its losses.

He said the frozen Russian assets “must be used to rebuild Ukraine after the war as well as to pay for the losses caused to other nations”.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at the time that congressional action would be needed to authorize such actions.

The war has already caused more than $60 billion in damage to buildings and infrastructure, World Bank President David Malpass said last week. And the IMF, in its latest World Economic Outlook, forecasts that Ukraine’s economy will shrink by 35% this year and next.

In recent weeks, the United States and its global allies have sanctioned dozens of oligarchs and their family members, as well as hundreds of Russian officials implicated in or deemed to support its invasion of Ukraine. The White House says the new tools will heighten the impact of sanctions on Russia’s economy and its ruling class by making sanctions harder to circumvent.

The huge amount Biden is seeking in the supplement represents more than half of the total proposed budget of $60.4 billion for the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development for the next fiscal year, although this is only a small fraction of the Pentagon’s 2023 spending plan.

According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, the United States has spent approximately $2.2 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 11, 2001. They estimate that interest costs by 2050 would reach $6.5 trillion.

By comparison, the United States spent $23.2 billion – including money from the Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security – in the 2001 budget year alone to cover aftermath of 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Of the money Biden is now asking for military purposes, there would be $6 billion to directly arm Ukraine, $5.4 billion to replace US supplies sent to the region, $4.5 billion to other security aid for Ukraine and US allies and $2.6 billion for the continued deployment of US forces in the region, according to documents outlining the request.

The proposed spending also includes $1.2 billion to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing to the United States with cash assistance, English lessons and school district assistance with Ukrainian students. There’s also $500 million for US farmers to produce more wheat, soybeans and other crops for which Ukraine, a major global food supplier, has suffered a drop in production.

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

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