In a recent development, the White House has approached Congress with a proposal to secure an additional $24 billion in aid for Ukraine. The request, which also includes provisions for addressing other international needs such as countering China, aims to allocate $13.1 billion specifically for defense purposes. Senior administration officials unveiled this plan on Thursday.
The United States has already provided Ukraine with over $113 billion in aid since Russia’s invasion in February 2021, making it the largest contributor to Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression. If approved, the extra funding would bring the total supplemental funding allocated by the US defense department for Ukraine to approximately $60 billion so far. This amount consists of $43.9 billion for security assistance and $18.4 billion for military, intelligence, and other defense support, as disclosed by an administration official to The Guardian.
Within the context of this new request for supplemental funds, the United States is also seeking $200 million to counter the Russian mercenary group known as Wagner, particularly in African countries.
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican speaker of the House, has previously expressed his reluctance to support additional funding for Ukraine if it exceeds the agreed-upon defense spending cap. The cap, established in a deal to avert a national default, limits national security spending to $886 billion for the fiscal year ending in September 2024.
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A senior administration official stated during a call with reporters that the duration of the war and the potential need for further assistance remain uncertain. They emphasized the administration’s willingness to approach Congress again in the first quarter of the following year if deemed necessary.
The issue of Ukraine aid has divided Republicans, with some vehemently opposing additional support, while others argue that the current spending is inadequate. Prominent Republican figures such as Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida and a potential presidential candidate in 2024, have been vocal critics of increasing defense spending on Ukraine.
Shalanda Young, the director of the US Office of Management and Budget responsible for administering the federal budget, wrote a letter to McCarthy underscoring the necessity of supplemental funds to support Ukraine and other vulnerable groups affected by the war. Young emphasized the importance of maintaining a strong global stance against Russia’s illegal war while offering a credible alternative to the People’s Republic of China’s coercive lending and infrastructure projects in developing countries.
Additionally, Young urged Congress to swiftly authorize funding to uphold agreements with three Pacific Island nations – the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. These agreements grant the US military access to key bases near China in the Pacific Ocean in exchange for aid and other benefits.
In addition to Ukraine aid, the request submitted to Congress includes provisions for disaster relief amounting to $12 billion and $4 billion for managing the Southwest border, including efforts to combat the illicit drug trade, particularly fentanyl. The proposal also designates $60 million to support pay increases for wildland firefighters in response to the rise in extreme weather events across the United States.
This request, totaling around $40 billion, addresses various critical priorities and awaits the deliberation and approval of Congress.