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US pump-priming

The US President has urged Congress to approve $33 billion in additional aid for Ukraine.

SNS | New Delhi |

To buttress America’s “involvement” in the war effort, President Joe Biden has sought a cache of pump-priming for Russia’s war with Ukraine, seemingly relentless a month after the outbreak on 24 February. The US President has urged Congress to approve $33 billion in additional aid for Ukraine. This has been clothed with the argument that weapons and humanitarian assistance are helping to beat back Russian invaders in a “conflict with enormous consequences for the US and the world”. He was obviously addressing the domestic constituency when he made the statement at the White House. “The cost of this fight is not cheap.” Addressing domestic concerns about the expense, which is fuelled by criticism that the events in Ukraine have been orchestrated by the military-industrial complex, he was explicit on the point that “caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen.” 

Mr Biden was clearly alluding to wartime economics when he said, “We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.” Mr Biden has been suitably forthright not the least because the massive aid package that he has sought will eclipse all the spending by the United States so far on the war. Additionally, it will ramp up America’s investment not merely in Ukraine’s defence, but more broadly in weakening Russian military capacity. These objectives were out- lined recently by none other than the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin. 

President Biden’s strident appeal for more aid has thus far been greeted with broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. But it is as yet uncertain whether the issue could get interlinked with negotiations over ancillary issues, notably Covid relief and immigration. While Mr Biden’s letter to Congress has endorsed tying the Ukraine assistance to a separate $22.5 billion pandemic response, he has let it be known that he “did not really care whether the two measures were linked or passed separately as long as both were approved.” President Biden is reportedly sending lawmakers a legislative plan to make it easier to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Not wholly unrelated is Thursday’s accusation by the United States that Russia is planning fake independence votes to justify its conquest of territory in Ukraine. The Kremlin has stepped up a major offensive in the east. Washington hopes Ukrainian forces can not only repel Russia’s assault in the east but also weaken the military so that it can no longer “menace neighbours”. While Moscow has threatened unspecified retaliation, it has accused Nato of waging a proxy war against it. Russia has shifted forces hundreds of miles eastwards to capture two provinces in a battle the western powers believe may prove to be a decisive turning point in the war.