Saturday, 18 May, 2024


US House approves crucial $61bn war aid for Ukraine

International Desk |
Update: 2024-04-21 10:00:18
US House approves crucial $61bn war aid for Ukraine photo collected

The House of Representatives has finally approved billions of dollars in new US military aid for Ukraine as it struggles to resist Russia's invasion.

The much-delayed measure had vocal opponents in Congress and it took a fragile bipartisan deal to get the $61bn (£49bn) package through.

Now the focus shifts from "whether" to "when" lethal aid arrives, with reports suggesting it could begin within days.

President Joe Biden spoke of a "clear message" about US leadership abroad.

Expressing gratitude, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: "Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it."

The aid would keep the war from expanding and save thousands of lives, he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov countered by saying the package would "make the United States of America richer, further ruin Ukraine and result in the deaths of even more Ukrainians".

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, since when tens of thousands of people, mainly soldiers, have been killed or injured on both sides, and millions of Ukrainians have had to flee their homes.

The foreign aid package passed on Saturday also includes:

$26.4bn in military support for Israel, with $9.1bn of that allocated to humanitarian aid for Gaza
$8.1bn in funding for allies in the Asia-Pacific, including Taiwan, to "counter communist China".
The House also passed a bill that would force the China-based owner of the TikTok social media platform to either sell its stake or face a ban in the US.

Can TikTok's owner afford to lose its killer app?
Cheers and applause erupted in the House when it passed, by 311 votes to 112, with some Representatives waving Ukrainian flags.

It will now go to the Senate, which is expected to pass it in the next few days before President Biden signs it into law.

Welcoming the result, Mr Biden praised the bipartisan effort to "answer history's call" and urging the Senate to approve it quickly "so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs".

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the significant boost in aid would supplement the tens of billions of assistance being provided to Ukraine by European allies.

"Ukraine deserves all the support it can get against Russia," EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel said in a joint statement.

Speaking to the BBC World Service's Newshour programme, Oleksandr Merezhko, head of Ukraine's foreign affairs committee, described the vote as a "historic decision" that would "definitely save lots of lives of our civilians and our soldiers".

"It gives us strength, it gives us courage and resolve to continue to fight, and I'm sure that the situation at the front will soon change in our favour," he said.

Ukraine, which relies on Western weapons, desperately needs the aid as it struggles to contain invading Russian troops, who have been making steady advances in recent weeks.

Ukrainian soldiers are running so low on munitions, they are having to ration artillery shells on a front line more than 1,200km (745 miles) long.

Both Mr Zelensky and head of the CIA William Burns have said that Ukraine will lose the war without American help.

That has been reinforced over the past six months by Russia taking more territory, and other Western allies struggling to fill the gap left by Washington.

Ukraine is now feeling the weight of American support once more.

This is not the silver bullet which will help Ukraine win the war, but it extends its window to fight and keep the negotiating table at bay.

The House vote had been delayed by Republicans for months, with some objecting to sending money overseas instead of dealing with the US-Mexico border issue.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said he wanted to push the measures through, even if it jeopardised his position.

Getty Images Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson (centre)Getty Images
Three House Republicans are already calling for Mike Johnson (centre) to be ousted as Speaker
On Saturday, it was passed by a comfortable margin - but those numbers obscure the increasingly sharp partisan divides on the issue.

While all 210 Democrats voted in favour, more Republicans were against the legislation than in favour of it, 112 to 101.

That could spell trouble for Mr Johnson. Three House Republicans are already calling for him to be ousted as Speaker. They may even force a vote on the matter next week.

US Speaker may pay political price for Ukraine deal
While the billions of dollars in new aid is expected to sustain the Ukrainian war effort in the months ahead, if Republicans gain more power in Congress - or take back the White House - further US support seems increasingly unlikely.

Source: BBC

BDST: 1000 HRS, APR 21, 2024

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