US gives final approval to $40bn Ukraine aid package

House of Representatives approved aid but Republican Rand Paul had previously stalled vote on assistance in Senate

The vote is expected to take place on Thursday. AP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine

The US Senate gave overwhelming final approval to a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine as Republicans and Democrats rallied behind the Eastern European country's efforts to fight off the Russian invasion.

The 86-11 vote comes three weeks after US President Joe Biden requested an initial $33bn in military and economic assistance for Kyiv.

“I applaud the Congress for sending a clear bipartisan message to the world that the people of the United States stand together with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their democracy and freedom,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also praised Congress's efforts, heralding the $40bn package as a “significant [American] contribution”.

The House of Representatives approved the aid on May 10 but it stalled in the Senate after Republican Rand Paul refused to allow a quick vote.

Speaking from the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the delay tactic by the junior senator from Kentucky “repugnant”.

He added that the Republicans who voted against the measure were “beyond troubling”.

“It appears more and more that MAGA [Make American Great Again] Republicans are on the same soft-on-Putin playbook that we saw used by former President Trump,” he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who voted in favour of the bill, said Ukraine's defeat would embolden autocrats, increase US security costs and put at risk the nation's European trading parties.

“The most expensive and painful thing America could possibly do in the long run would be to stop investing in sovereignty, stability and deterrence before it’s too late,” said Mr McConnell, who led a small Republican delegation to Kyiv at the weekend.

Contained in the bundle is $6bn earmarked to help boost Ukraine's armoured vehicle inventory and air defence system.

And nearly $9bn is allocated to ensure Ukraine's “continuity of government”, among other items, including humanitarian aid.

Congress already approved almost $14bn for Ukraine in mid-March, weeks after Russia invaded.

But as fighting has shifted away from the capital and towards the eastern and southern parts of the country, Mr Biden began calling for another round of financial support.

The US president is looking for his country to take the lead in what he views as a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. But funds already designated for Ukraine are about to run out, he said.

The House of Representatives already approved the $40bn package — the equivalent to the 2020 GDP of Cameroon — last week.

Such bipartisan support is rare in a Congress often divided on party lines.

“When it comes to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, either we pay now or we pay later,” said Republican Lindsey Graham, who earlier in the conflict took to Twitter to call for the Russian president to be assassinated.

Though it originally stuck to sending weapons seen as defensive, Washington has moved on to supplying artillery, helicopters and drones to the Ukrainian army, whose troops are trained to use them in the US or in third countries before heading back to use them at the front.

Another $9bn of the latest package has also been set aside to help the US resupply its own weapons.

The Biden administration on Thursday also authorised a $100 million drawdown that includes 18 155mm Howitzers, 18 more tactical vehicles, counter-artillery radars and spare parts, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

Updated: May 19, 2022, 8:12 PM
NEWSLETTERS
MORE FROM THE NATIONAL