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President Biden on Wednesday approved an additional $800 million in military aid for Ukraine, saying the United States is “answering” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for more help, while warning of a “long and difficult battle” ahead against Russia.
The additional $800 million comes on top of the $200 million in funding that was announced Saturday.
The new package includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems; 2,000 Javelins, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons and 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems; 100 unmanned drones; 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns, and 400 shotguns; more than 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds; 25,000 sets of body armor; and 25,000 helmets. The equipment will be transferred directly from the Department of Defense to the Ukrainian military, Biden said.
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“I thank the Congress for appropriating these funds. This new package on its own is going to provide unprecedented assistance to Ukraine,” Biden said.
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Biden stressed that U.S. allies are also flowing weapons to Ukraine, and promised that “more will be coming as we source additional stocks of equipment that we’re ready to transfer.”
Biden warned that “this could be a long and difficult battle,” but said “the American people are supporting the people of Ukraine in the face of Putin’s immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations.”
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“We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught. We’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, very survival,” the president said. “We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight, to defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead.”
Biden added that the United States will also “continue to mobilize humanitarian relief to support people within Ukraine and those who’ve been forced to flee Ukraine,” noting that, in just the last few weeks, the U.S. has provided $300 million of humanitarian assistance to the people in Ukraine and in neighboring countries.
The president vowed that the U.S., in coordination with allies and partners, “will keep up the pressure on Putin’s crumbling economy, isolating him on the global stage.”
“That’s our goal,” Biden said. “Make Putin pay the price, weaken his position while strengthening the hand of the Ukrainians on the battlefield, at the negotiating table, together with our allies and partners.”
Biden added: “We’re going to stay the course. We’ll do everything we can to push for and end this tragic, unnecessary war.”
Biden called the war a “struggle that pits the appetites of an autocrat against humankind’s desire to be free.”
“Let there be no doubt, no uncertainty, no question, America stands with the forces of freedom,” Biden said. “We always have. We always will.”
Biden’s address comes after Zelenskyy pleaded with the United States to “do more” by implementing a no-fly zone, providing additional aircraft and air defense systems, and creating a new security alliance.
The White House has maintained that the creation of a no-fly zone would be viewed as “escalatory” and “could prompt a war with Russia.”
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Ukraine is not a member of NATO, so it is not subject to the Article V provision of the NATO alliance that says when one member country is attacked, all member countries will take action to assist.
On Monday, the parliament of Estonia called for U.N. member states to “take immediate steps to establish a no-fly zone” over Ukraine to prevent further civilian casualties as war rages on.
But Zelenskyy said that if a no-fly zone was “too much to ask,” he offered an alternative: “powerful, strong” air systems to “protect our people, our freedom, our land.”
“You know that they exist and you have them, but they are on earth,” Zelenskyy said. “Not in Ukraine, not in the Ukrainian sky — they do not defend our people.”
Zelenskyy also issued a direct message to President Biden.
“I’m addressing the President Biden,” Zelenskyy said. “You, the leader of your nation, I wish you to be the leader of the world.”
He added: “Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”
Biden is set to travel to Brussels, Belgium, next week for a NATO summit to “discuss the ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine as well as to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies.”
Biden is also set to join a scheduled European Council Summit to discuss “shared concerns about Ukraine, including transatlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those effected by the violence, and to address other challenges related to the conflict.”
The White House said Biden’s “goal” is “to meet in person, face to face, with his European counterparts and talk about and assess where we are at this point in the conflict.”
“The president is a big believer in face-to-face diplomacy,” Psaki said, adding that the summit is “an opportunity to do exactly that.”
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As for whether Biden will meet with Zelenskyy during his trip to Europe, Psaki said the White House is “still finalizing the trip at this point in time.”
“The real focus right now is to meet with NATO partners in Brussels,” Psaki said. “If there are additional steps, we’ll share all those details with all of you.”