WASHINGTON: Congress approved a US$40 billion aid package for Ukraine yesterday, the latest tranche of US assistance under president Joe Biden’s promise of unwavering support for Kyiv in its fight against Russia’s invasion.
The vote was an unusually bipartisan move for harshly divided Washington.
“Aid for Ukraine goes far beyond charity,” Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said.
“The future of American security and core strategic interests will be shaped by the outcome of this fight,” he said ahead of the vote.
‘Continuity of government’
The bundle includes US$6 billion earmarked for Ukraine to boost its armoured vehicle inventory and air defence system.
Nearly US$9 billion is set aside to help with Ukrainian “continuity of government”, among other items, including humanitarian aid.
Congress already approved almost US$14 billion for Ukraine in mid-March, only weeks after Russia’s invasion.
But as fighting has shifted away from the capital and to the eastern and southern parts of the country, Biden has been calling for another round of financial support for weeks.
The US president has often repeated his desire to lead in what he depicts as a great struggle of democracy against authoritarianism.
But funds already designated for Ukraine support were about to run out, he said.
The US House of Representatives had already approved the US$40 billion package – the equivalent to the 2020 GDP of Cameroon – last week.
‘Pay now or pay later’
Such bipartisan support is rare in a Congress often divided along party lines.
“When it comes to Putin, either we pay now or we pay later,” said Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who earlier in the conflict took to Twitter to call for the Russian president to be assassinated.
Though it originally intended to send only weapons of defence, Washington has since supplied artillery, helicopters and drones to the Ukrainian army, whose troops are trained to use them in the US or third countries before heading back to the front line.
Another US$9 billion of the latest package is also set to help the US resupply its own weapons back-stock.
On Wednesday, the Senate additionally confirmed Bridget Brink, a career diplomat, as the next US ambassador to Ukraine.
The position had been vacant since 2019.