President Biden sent Congress a whopping $33 billion request to provide additional aid for Ukraine. The funds are intended to supply the country with more weapons, as well as to provide humanitarian and economic support as the fighting enters its third month.
The request serves as a major move by the US to support Ukraine after the SecDef Austin announced that the one of the goals of the US was to see the Russian military incapacitated after the Russo-Ukrainian war over. Biden’s request also comes after the Senate passed a $1.5 trillion spending budget which included a $13.6 billion package in aid for Ukraine.
“What I want to make clear to the Congress and the American people is this: the cost of failing to stand up to violent aggression in Europe has always been higher than the cost of standing firm against such attacks,” Biden wrote in his letter to Congress.
The US, along with its allies, has opted to keep its troops out of Ukraine to prevent unwanted military escalation. However, Washington, together with several European governments, has begun shipping military equipment and weapons to Kyiv.
The US government alone has sent over 50 million rounds of ammunition, Mi-17 helicopters, tactical drones such as the famed Switchblades and Phoenix Drones, various armored vehicles, as well as anti-tank and anti-air systems to Ukraine. They have also offered to train Ukrainian soldiers, which are used to Soviet-class equipment, to be able to use Western-based weapon systems. Altogether, the US has already sent over nearly $17.7 billion in security and economic assistance for Ukraine.
“This war will not end easily or rapidly, but the free world is united against this brutal invasion, and we must continue to be in the best position possible to respond to a variety of scenarios,” said a White House official.
The Budget Breakdown
In a White House fact sheet, the Biden administration laid out its plans on where the requested $33 billion will be spent on.
The majority of the fund, $20.4 billion, will be spent on providing additional military assistance to Ukraine and in US security efforts in Europe. This includes $5 billion in additional drawdown authority, $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and $4 billion for the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program. The temr “Drawdown authority” allows the President to send stockpiles of equipment meant for use by the US military to Ukraine.
The military assistance aims to: (1) ensure that the flow of military equipment such as artillery and anti-tank rockets to Ukraine is not interrupted; (2) improve cyberdefense capabilities and air defense systems; (3) provide assistance in the clearing of landmines and other hazardous remnants of war; (4) and to bolster NATO security posture.
An additional $8.5 billion will be used on economic assistance to help Ukraine respond to short-term concerns and continue providing basic services to its people. This includes funding to ensure the Democratic government continues to function, combat Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns, and support the country’s agribusiness and natural gas purchases.
Another $3 billion will be used to address humanitarian needs brought by the invasion. This includes food support, medical support, supplies, clean drinking water, temporary shelter, and mental health services.
The fact sheet also included an additional $500 million to address domestic and international economic disruption, particularly to boost the production of wheat and soybeans.
Going After the Russian Oligarchs
Along with his supplemental budget request to help Ukraine, Biden is also set to propose a comprehensive legislative package that will allow the US government to further crackdown on Russian oligarchs and their assets.
His proposal aims to create a new process for seizing the assets of Russian oligarchs and expand the list of assets that are subject to government seizure. It will also allow funds accumulated from the seized assets to be transferred to Ukraine, the primary victim of Vladimir Putin’s so-called “special operation.”
Biden’s proposal will help clamp down on sanction evasion and allow the forfeiture of property used by Russian oligarchs to evade punishment. This will close a gap in current US law where the government can forfeit the proceeds of sanctions violations but not the property used to facilitate those violations.
The proposed steps would also allow the Justice Department to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, formerly used against the mafia. This will give the justice system a powerful tool to build cases against entities that try to evade sanctions.
His proposal also intends to extend the time for prosecutors to build stronger cases of money laundering from 5 years to 10 years. He also plans to expand the US capability to work with its international partners to seize assets linked to foreign kleptocracy.
Currently, the seizure efforts in the European Union have resulted in over $30 billion in frozen assets, which includes helicopters, real estate, boats, and artwork. The US Treasury has been able to sanction over $1 billion worth of vessels and aircraft, as well as hundreds of millions in assets from US bank accounts of Russian elites.
Spending for assistance in Ukraine currently benefits from rare bipartisan support. However, Republican aides said that attempts to combine war support and pandemic response could delay the approval of the request.
“I don’t care how they do it,” Biden said. “They can do it separately or together, but we need them both.”