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White House signals it’s running out of funding to support Ukraine

Click to play video: 'Ukraine, Israel winning benefits U.S., world: Biden'
Ukraine, Israel winning benefits U.S., world: Biden
WATCH: Ukraine, Israel winning benefits U.S., world: Biden – Oct 19, 2023

The White House on Friday suggested it is beginning to run out of available funding to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion, once again calling on Congress to approve more.

Earlier Friday, the Biden administration announced it was sending another US$425 million worth of additional arms and equipment to Ukraine. Most of the money — around US$300 million — is being drawn from the US$18-billion Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which funds contracts for weapons built or modified by defence companies.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed the new aid package “exhaust(s) the remaining USAI funds currently available to support Ukraine.”

The package also includes about US$125 million in weapons and equipment through presidential drawdown authority (PDA), which pulls weapons from existing U.S. stockpiles. But Jean-Pierre suggested those funds are running out as well.

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“(While) we do have remaining PDA authorities to continue to fulfill Ukraine’s immediate battlefield needs, we’re beginning to provide Ukraine with smaller PDA packages in order to stretch out our ability to support Ukraine for as long as possible,” she said, according to a transcript of the conversation provided by the White House.

Click to play video: 'Ukraine, Russia need to come to ‘negotiating table’ amid ‘stalemate’ in war: Lukashenko'
Ukraine, Russia need to come to ‘negotiating table’ amid ‘stalemate’ in war: Lukashenko

The Biden administration still has about US$5 billion of congressionally-granted presidential drawdown authority, after the Pentagon found in June it had overestimated the value of arms shipped to Ukraine due to a US$6.2 billion accounting error.

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U.S. President Joe Biden last month asked Congress to pass a nearly US$106-billion emergency aid package that includes US$61.4 billion for Ukraine, along with smaller amounts for Israel, Indo-Pacific security, protection and enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border and humanitarian assistance in Gaza and elsewhere.

The Republican-led House of Representatives on Thursday passed a US$14.3-billion military aid bill for Israel, matching Biden’s request for that country but ignoring the other priorities. The bill, which offsets the aid with government spending cuts, has little chance of becoming law.

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New U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson has said he plans to quickly introduce a Ukraine aid package that also includes border security funding. However, he has yet to say how much money his Republican caucus will seek to approve.

The White House and the Democrat-led Senate has urged Johnson and House Republicans to take up Biden’s original request, which Jean-Pierre repeated on Friday.

“The people of Ukraine are on the front lines in the fight for freedom and democracy as we head into what will likely be another brutal winter full of Russian attacks,” she said.

“It is critical that Congress send the world an important message about America’s resolve and take action to pass the president’s national security supplemental request and show (Russian President) Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world that the United States continues to stand strongly with Ukraine.”

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Will Russia exploit Middle East volatility?

Biden and his administration have sought to draw a clear link between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is approaching the two-year-mark, and Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Both Hamas and Putin, they have said, aim to “destroy a neighbouring democracy” and the conflicts have the potential of spilling over into other countries.

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Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, the U.S. has sent about US$44 billion worth of security assistance to Ukraine. A growing number of Republicans, particularly in the House, have voiced opposition to adding further to that number.

Johnson told Fox News last week that Congress will not “abandon” Kyiv, but added he wants to pin down the Biden administration’s “endgame” for the war.

Experts have repeatedly said Ukraine has little chance of emerging victorious from the war without U.S. military aid, which has far outpaced the weapons and equipment supplied by Europe and other Western allies.

In recent days, Ukraine has been reporting an increasing number of Russian missile barrages targeting residential buildings and infrastructure.

Last winter, Russia took aim at Ukraine’s power grid in an effort to deny civilians light and heating and chip away at the country’s appetite for war — a strategy that Ukrainian officials have said Moscow will repeat this year.

The White House said Friday’s latest aid package includes munitions for High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), as well as artillery rounds, anti-tank missiles, demolition equipment and cold weather gear.

Ukraine will also receive newly-built laser-guided munitions to shoot down Iranian-supplied Russian drones.

—with files from the Associated Press and Reuters

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