Biden signs Ukraine ‘lend-lease’ military aid bill in jab at Putin

US President Joe Biden signs measure hours after Russian leader tried to rally support for his country's invasion of Ukraine

US President Joe Biden signs the Ukraine Democracy Defence Lend-Lease Act of 2022 in the Oval Office of the White House. Bloomberg
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine

Washington sought to portray a united front against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Monday as President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure to reboot the Second World War-era “lend-lease” programme to bolster Kyiv and other Eastern European allies.

The measure takes its name from a 1941 policy in which the US supplied the UK, the Soviet Union and other Allied nations with food, oil and other supplies throughout the Second World War.

The new legislation is largely symbolic, but comes as Congress prepares to unleash resources of at least $33 billion to help Ukraine. Democrats have agreed on a proposal with a price tag that would come closer to $40bn, US media outlets reported.

Mr Biden signed the measure hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin used the backdrop of V-E Day, a major Russian holiday commemorating Germany's unconditional surrender, to rally support for his country's unprovoked invasion on Ukraine.

Before signing the bill, Mr Biden said that Mr “Putin’s war” was “once more bringing wanton destruction of Europe”, drawing reference to the significance of the day.

Joining Mr Biden at the ceremony at the Oval Office were two Democratic members of Congress and Ukrainian-born Republican Victoria Spartz.

The bipartisan Ukraine Lend-Lease Act sailed through the US Senate last month with unanimous consent. It was overwhelmingly passed in the House, where only 10 Republicans opposed the measure.

“It really matters,” Mr Biden said of the bipartisan support for Ukraine. “It matters.”

Despite their differences over Mr Biden’s approach and perceived missteps in confronting Russia, when it comes to Ukraine, the members of the House and Senate have come together in a rare bipartisan fashion.

Other measures, including calls to investigate Mr Putin for war crimes, have also gained widespread support.

“While President Putin and the Russian people celebrated Victory Day today, we’re seeing Russian forces commit war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, as they engage in a brutal war that is causing so much suffering and needless destruction,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

She said Mr Putin was “perverting” history in an attempt to “justify his unprovoked and unjustified war”.

Mr Biden’s latest request for $33bn in military and humanitarian aid will pull the US deeper into the conflict and test the resolve in Congress.

But as the package makes its way through the House and Senate, with votes possible soon, Congress is showing no sign of flinching.

Countless members of both parties have made weekend excursions to the region to see first-hand the effects of the war on Ukraine and surrounding countries.

Rather than fight spending overseas — as had been an increasingly popular approach during the Donald Trump era — members of both parties are looking to boost the amount of aid being sent to Ukraine.

“The cost of the fight is not cheap,” Mr Biden said, “but caving to aggression is even more costly.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: May 10, 2022, 5:15 AM