Biden pledges $800 million in new aid to Ukraine, will ask Congress for more

WASHINGTON ― U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday he will send $800 million more in military aid to help Ukraine, adding that as his authority to draw from U.S. military stockpiles surpasses $3 billion, he will need to ask Congress for more funding.

“Combined with our recent drawdowns, it will ensure a steady flow of weapons and equipment into Ukraine over the next few weeks. However, with this latest disbursement, I’ve almost exhausted the drawdown authority I have, that Congress authorized for Ukraine,” Biden said in an address at the White House. “Next week, I’m going to have to be sending to Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption.”

More heavy artillery and tactical drones will be part of the package, which is “tailored to the intensified fighting” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, Biden said. He said the U.S. and allies are moving as fast as possible to aid Ukraine during a “critical window” in which Russian forces are building up for a renewed campaign in the east, noting that weapons were flowing to Ukraine “at record speed” since Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24.

The commander in chief called out the long-range howitzer artillery and Javelin anti-tank missiles the U.S. is sending, and — highlighting Washington’s role as a facilitator — Slovakia’s recent provision of Soviet-era S-300 air defense systems, in a swap for the U.S. deploying a Patriot air defense system there.

“We won’t always be able to advertise everything that our partners are doing to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom, but to modernize Teddy Roosevelt’s famous advice, sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin, because we’re sending a lot of those as well,” Biden said.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the new package comes with enough artillery systems to equip five battalions, including:

  • 72 155mm howitzers and 144,000 artillery rounds.
  • 72 tactical vehicles to tow 155mm howitzers.
  • More than 121 Phoenix Ghost tactical drones.
  • Field equipment and spare parts.

The Phoenix Ghost was rapidly developed by the U.S. Air Force specifically for Ukrainian requirements, Kirby said, and it’s similar to the Switchblade drones the U.S. already sent.

The new authorization marks the eighth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August 2021. It comes on the heels of Biden meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Thursday morning.

The latest package follows an $800 million bundle Biden announced earlier this month, which for the first time included 18 155mm howitzers, 40,000 artillery rounds and 10 AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars. An unspecified number of unmanned coastal defense vessels, of which Pentagon officials have been tight-lipped, is also in that package.

Congress finalized a $1.5 trillion spending bill last month that provides $13.6 billion in new aid for the Ukraine crisis. The money is largely meant to restore stocks of military equipment already transferred to Ukrainian defense units through the president’s drawdown authority.

Including Biden’s announcement, the U.S. has pledged $3.4 billion in security assistance to Ukrainian forces, most from U.S. military stockpiles. On Thursday, Biden said Ukraine has received 10 anti-armor systems for every Russian tank, adding that the aid also includes sharing “significant, timely intelligence.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told reporters last week the Biden administration plans to ask Congress for money to pay for U.S. troop deployments in Eastern Europe — on the same day Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., floated the possibility of additional Ukraine funding.

“We may need to do another supplemental,” McConnell said during remarks in his home state of Kentucky. “This is critically important that we win, that the Russians be defeated, that we do everything we can to punish them both on the economic side and military side.”

Before the meeting, which focused largely on the crisis in Europe, Biden applauded the “exceptional” work of U.S. military officials to arm Ukraine. He also hailed Ukrainian resistance to Russia as “tougher and more proud than I thought” and allies as “amplifying the impact of our response.”

“I’m amazed what they’re doing with your help, in terms of providing advice and — and weaponry we’re providing, along with the rest of NATO,” Biden said.

Earlier this week, the U.S., Britain and Canada pledged to send more artillery to Ukraine, Biden said after a call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Western leaders on Tuesday.

“This will become an artillery conflict, they need support with more artillery. That is what we will be giving them … in addition to many other forms of support,” Johnson told British lawmakers.

Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.

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