The Biden administration is asking Congress for $33 billion in funding to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than double the $14 billion in support authorized so far.
The money is intended to last until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 and provide Ukraine with a more sustained guarantee of support as the war drags on. President Biden urged Congress Thursday to approve his request as quickly as possible, saying the security assistance was coming at a “pivotal time” for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion.
“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
“The costs of this fight, it’s not cheap. But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” he said.
Biden also said the U.S. was working with Korea, Japan, Qatar and others to help fill the energy import needs of Poland and Bulgaria after Russia threatened to cut natural gas exports to those countries. He said Poland has significant reserves, and that there are plans to divert U.S. shipments of natural gas sold to Japan and other places to Bulgaria, if needed.
And he said he was concerned about recent Russian comments that paint the conflict as being between NATO, the U.S. and Russia.
“They’re not true — they do concern me — because it shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure,” he said. “No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons, or the possibility that they’d use that.”
“We are prepared for whatever they do,” he said.
Biden also addressed an earlier White House announcement calling on Congress to pass legislation making it easier to seize assets of Russian oligarchs.
The bulk of the request is for military and security assistance, a total of $20 billion to provide weapons to Ukraine, replenish U.S. arms stockpiles and help other countries shift away from a dependence on Russian weapons, the officials said.
An additional $8.5 billion is being requested in economic assistance to the Ukrainian government and another $3 billion for humanitarian and food security funding, including supporting refugees from Ukraine and countries who are taking them in.
Biden administration officials said they are also requesting funds to address global economic stress due to the war, in part to increase U.S. production of wheat and soybeans, as well as using the Defense Production Act to expand reserves of critical minerals needed in the manufacture of defense machinery, automobiles and more.
Congress will not be able to act immediately to pass the funding as the House is about to leave on a weeklong recess. There have been deliberations about whether to attach the Ukraine funding to COVID aid that the White House has requested and has been stalled.
“It certainly makes sense for them to move together,” an official said, adding that Biden will address the need for both pools of funding in his remarks. Pentagon leaders in recent days have urged Congress to move without delay on the funding, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., indicated to reporters Wednesday he would support moving the Ukraine aid independent of the COVID package if it meant avoiding a delay. The COVID aid has been caught up in disagreements between the parties, including over extending the Title 42 pandemic border controls.