The White House has put on hold a military aid package to Ukraine. The aid was originally given in response to massive Russian troop buildups along Ukraine’s border this spring.
Politico, citing “four people familiar with internal deliberations,” reported that the military aid, which contained small arms, anti-tank missiles, as well as short-range air defense systems, was put on hold by the National Security Council after the Russian military began to pull some of its troops back from the border. The aid was worth about $100 million.
The Administration Rejects That It Is Withholding Aid From Ukraine
However, in a statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki slammed the Politico report.
“The idea that we have held back security assistance to Ukraine is nonsense,” Psaki said.
“Just last week — in the run-up to the US-Russia Summit — we provided a $150 million package of security assistance, including lethal assistance. We have now provided the entire amount appropriated by Congress through the Ukraine security assistance initiative.”
Psaki added that the administration has also prepared contingency funds and packages that will be activated should the Russians commit further aggressions and cross what is perceived as a red line.
“We have also prepared contingency funds in the event of a further Russian incursion into Ukraine. As President Biden told President Putin directly, we will stand unwavering in support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Psaki also cited President Biden’s statement from prior to his meeting with Putin that the U.S. “will do all that we can to put Ukraine in the position to be able to continue to resist Russian physical aggression.”
Earlier this spring the Russians amassed about 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border claiming it was in response to a much smaller U.S. exercise around the Black Sea.
In 2014, after again amassing on the Ukrainian border, the Russians annexed Crimea and supported a proxy force in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Donbas provides important land access to the Sea of Azov and the Crimean Peninsula. Fighting still flares up in the region.
The reports that contingency funds are being put on hold caused some Republican lawmakers to respond. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) blasted the administration.
“Remember when freezing military aid to Ukraine was an impeachable offense?” he asked in a thinly-veiled reference to the impeachment that former President Trump went through after he held up the release of $400 million worth of military aid to the Ukrainian military. At the time, President Trump had insisted that the Kiev government open an investigation into then-presidential candidate Biden, his son Hunter, and their business dealings in Ukraine.
Ukraine Is Far From Joining NATO
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pushing for his country to join NATO. Although this could guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty it is considered a redline by Putin. Zelensky claimed earlier that NATO leaders had “confirmed” that Ukraine would be allowed to join NATO. But Biden shot down that rumor.
“It depends on whether they meet the criteria,” Biden said. “The fact is, they still have to clean up corruption. The fact is they have to meet other criteria to get into the action plan. And so it’s, you know, the school’s out on that question. It remains to be seen.”
Zelensky’s government claims that the Russians still have nearly 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border.