WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday said it was “stunning” that Congress has not yet approved tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance for Ukraine, as his administration warned of dire consequences for Kyiv — and a “gift” to Russia’s Vladimir Putin — if lawmakers don’t act.
Speaking at the White House, Biden said Republicans who are insisting on border policy changes as a condition for voting for the aid “are playing chicken with our national security,” even as he expressed openness to some policy changes.
“Republicans in Congress are willing to give Putin the greatest gift he could hope for,” Biden said, saying American credibility was on the line both with other would-be aggressors and with its allies. “Any disruption in our ability to supply Ukraine clearly strengthen’s Putin’s position.”
“If we don’t support Ukraine, what is the rest of the world going to do?,” he added.
Biden’s address comes hours after he huddled with leaders of the Group of Seven advanced democracies, which have staunchly supported Ukraine against Russia’s ongoing invasion, and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Biden has asked Congress for nearly $106 billion to fund the wars in Ukraine, Israel and other security needs, but has faced stiff resistance on Capitol Hill. Some Republicans have grown tired of providing support to Ukraine after the U.S. has already sent $111 billion, and other GOP lawmakers are insisting on stiff changes to U.S. border policy as a condition of voting for the measure.
Biden said he supports more funding for border security. “I am willing to make significant compromises on the border,” he said. “We need to fix the broken border system. It is broken.” He added that he’s “ready to change policy as well,” but accused Republicans of wanting a political issue more than bipartisan compromise.
“Republicans think they get everything they want without any bipartisan compromise,” Biden said. “Now they’re willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process.”
But Biden has not publicly said what policy changes he would embrace.
The White House has sent increasingly sharp warnings to lawmakers of what would happen if they don’t approve the measure before the end of the year, saying Ukraine’s military would be stalled, or worse.
“We’re the reason Putin hasn’t totally overrun Ukraine,” Biden said.
The U.S. is expected to announce a $175 million package of military aid to Ukraine on Wednesday, including guided missiles for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), anti-armor systems and high-speed anti-radiation missiles, according to U.S. officials.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said Tuesday there is about $1.1 billion left in funding to replenish U.S. military stockpiles for weapons and equipment sent to Ukraine. And he said there is roughly $4.8 billion in drawdown authority still available.
AP writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed.