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Biden Signs Aid Bill, Orders Ukraine Help to Flow Within Hours

Biden Signs Aid Bill, Orders Ukraine Help to Flow Within Hours
US President Joe Biden. (Photo: EPA-EFE / JIM LO SCALZO / POOL)

President Joe Biden signed a $95 billion national security package into law and said assistance to Ukraine would begin to move within “hours,” capping off a bruising fight with Republicans over long-delayed assistance for Kyiv and other besieged US allies.

Biden’s signature clears the way for the US to quickly resume arms shipments for Kyiv, whose efforts to repel Russia’s invasion have faltered amid the eight-month funding impasse. Even with refreshed stocks of weapons and ammunition, Ukraine could struggle to retake the initiative after being driven to the breaking point from months of Russian attacks.

“I’m making sure the shipments start right away. In the next few hours — literally in a few hours — we are going to begin sending equipment to Ukraine for air defense munitions, artillery for rocket systems, and armored vehicles,” Biden said Wednesday at the White House.

The US said the initial tranche of aid is valued at $1 billion and would include air defense interceptors, artillery rounds, armored vehicles, and anti-tank weapons — the first transfer from $61 billion in new funding. That will boost Ukrainian forces that have been battered by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive.

“It’s a good day for America, it is a good day for Americans. It’s a good day for world peace,” he added. “It’s going to make America safer, is going to make the world safer. And it continues America’s leadership in the world.”

The new law also empowers Biden to seize an estimated $5 billion in Russian assets in US banks and repurpose them to assist Ukraine. Critics have argued any unilateral move to do that without allies would weaken the dollar and hurt demand for US Treasury bonds.

Highlights of US Assistance For Ukraine in Initial $1 Billion Tranche:
  • Stinger anti-aircraft missiles
  • Small arms and additional rounds of small arms ammunition
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS)
  • Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles
  • Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles
  • High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs)
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems
  • Claymore anti-personnel munitions

Biden also addressed aid for Israel included in the package, calling his “commitment” to the country “ironclad.” The president’s support for Israel has drawn criticism from allies on the left over the humanitarian toll in Gaza from the military campaign to root out Hamas.

“I will always make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Iran,” Biden said. He added the law “significantly increases humanitarian assistance” with $1 billion for the people of Gaza, and demanded Israel allow the flow of aid to those who are “suffering badly.”

Read More: US Senate Passes Ukraine Aid, Arms Shipments to Resume in Days

The package also includes money for Taiwan, as well as language that would ban the popular TikTok social media app in the US unless ByteDance Ltd divests, a provision the China-based parent has vowed to fight in court. Biden did not mention the TikTok provision in his remarks.

By signing the bill into law, Biden sets the initial divestiture deadline for Jan. 19 — a day before the next presidential inauguration. He will have the ability to extend that deadline by an additional 90 days.

That would take the decision out of the hands of former President Donald Trump if he prevails against Biden in November’s general election. It gives the administration more leverage to force a sale and discourages TikTok from holding out for Trump, who says he opposes a ban.

Earlier: TikTok Ban Looms With Biden Poised to Start 270-Day Countdown

Republican lawmakers who have become increasingly skeptical of US foreign aid, cheered on by Trump, stymied prior funding proposals by demanding immigration changes be attached that were unpalatable to Democrats. That, in turn, hampered Biden’s effort to aid Ukraine’s war effort.

Yet that could lead to repercussions for US House Speaker Mike Johnson, who is facing calls to resign or be ousted from his right flank over his decision to move a funding package.

Biden thanked Johnson for helping pass the law, even as he bemoaned the months-long fight to secure aid.

“The path to my desk was a difficult path – it should have been easier and it should have gotten there sooner,” Biden said, calling the package “directly in the United States’s national security interest.”

“Some of our MAGA Republican friends reject that notion. But what this vote makes clear is that there is a bipartisan consensus for that kind of American leadership,” he added.

Ukrainian forces have suffered territorial losses in the eastern part of the country, and constant Russian bombardment has cratered energy infrastructure and population centers. Putin’s military is now targeting Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with a bombing campaign that Ukrainian and Western officials see as an attempt to force the evacuation of civilians.

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