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.
Biden cast Russian President Vladimir Putin’s failed attempt to quickly seize the Ukrainian capital Kyiv as a “historic victory” for Ukrainians and freedom, helped by Western aid. As the war enters a new phase, Biden said it’s time to accelerate the provision of more weaponry.
“Every American taxpayer, every member of our armed forces can be proud of the fact that our country’s generosity, and the skill and service of our military, helped arm and repel Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, to beat back Putin’s savagery that tried to seize Ukraine’s capital and wipe out Ukraine’s government,” Biden said.
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.
Shmyhal subsequently met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill. Standing alongside Pelosi, the prime minister told reporters that Ukraine also needs more funding for humanitarian aid and to support demining operations.
“More than 120,000 miles are under mines in my country,” Shmyhal said. “We need money, we need technologies, we need support in this sphere.”
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.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said earlier this month that he intends to include additional Ukraine aid in a broader supplemental package that would also contain international aid for COVID-19 and funding to address global food insecurity. But Republicans have so far opposed the $5 billion in global health funding that Schumer intends to combine with the Ukraine supplemental.
“Hopefully we can get bipartisan consensus to move forward on something,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told reporters on a call while participating in a congressional delegation to the Balkans. “But if that discussion is going to take a matter of weeks, we have to make a decision on Ukraine support in a matter of hours and days. And that’s ultimately what we have to do when we go back to Washington next week.”
Before Shmyhal’s meeting with Biden, which focused largely on the crisis in Europe, the president 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.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered the intersection of U.S. foreign policy and national security in Washington since 2014. He previously wrote for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.