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US to send 'emergency' military aid to Ukraine

March 12, 2024

The US government has announced stopgap military aid for Ukraine, saying it would enable Kyiv's guns to keep firing "for a short period." Its permanent plans for aid to Ukraine have been stalled in Congress for months.

A Ukrainian serviceman prepares 155-mm artillery shells at a position near a front line
Without US military aid, Ukraine is fast running out of ammunition Image: Stringer/REUTERS

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Tuesday announced that the US would be providing a small package of emergency military aid for Ukraine, bypassing Congress after its more permanent plans to assist Kyiv have been stalled in Congress for several months. 

"Today, on behalf of President Biden, I'm announcing an emergency package of security assistance and $300 million worth of weapons and equipment to address some of Ukraine's pressing needs," Sullivan told reporters.

"The world is watching. The clock is ticking and we need to see action as rapidly as possible." 

The $300 million (roughly €275 million) package would include artillery ammunition, Sullivan said. That's probably the most requested item from Ukraine at present, and one where NATO countries' stockpiles are dwindling, given the dramatic uptick in usage over the past two years.

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Biden says the emergency package is 'not enough'

The announcement came as Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Andrzej Duda were visiting the White House, appealing for a fortification of NATO's eastern flank more generally.

"NATO must accept that if not today, then tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, operational capabilities on NATO's eastern flank must be greater," Tusk told a Polish broadcaster before his arrival in Washington.

Biden said on Tuesday during his meeting with the Polish leaders that the emergency aid package was "not enough for Ukraine." 

Duda, meanwhile, called on all NATO members to increase their defense spending to 3%, as opposed to the current 2% target that not all members meet. 

Poland and the US are both NATO members that exceed the target. Official figures put US defense spending at roughly 3% of GDP, whereas for Poland NATO's estimates are nearer 4%.

Main $60 billion package for 2024 deadlocked in Congress

Joe Biden's administration has been appealing for months to Congress to pass its plans for military assistance for Ukraine in 2024. 

That is a much larger package worth roughly $60 billion — or 200 times the funds announced on Tuesday — that's been held up in the Republican-majority House of Representatives ever since the plans for the 2024 budget went to the House late last year.

Republicans first called for the spending to be tied to new immigration laws at the southern border in the US. House Speaker Mike Johnson has so far resisted calls to put the aid to a vote amid pressure from hardliners in his party. However, the most senior Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he wanted to "encourage the speaker again to allow a vote." 

The funds also include US military assistance planned for Israel and Taiwan in 2024 which accounts for roughly $35 billion more.

Biden, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy and other western leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during his recent visit to Washington, had all urged lawmakers in the lower house to break the deadlock, but so far without success.

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Meanwhile, the 2024 election campaign — hardly a period known for bipartisan cooperation in US politics — draws ever nearer.

Ukraine on back foot, says lines stabilized but that resupply crucial

Ukraine's troops have been losing ground, most notably the town of Avdiivka just north of the city of Donetsk, in recent months, partly blaming shortages in ammunition and equipment. 

"We have had some difficulties because of shortages of artillery shells, an air blockade, Russian long-range weapons and the great intensity of Russian drone attacks," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with French television on Monday.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy added, however, that "the situation" has stabilized and in fact "is much better than it has been over the past three months." 

He said that the advance of Russian troops had been stopped but he also warned of Moscow preparing a new offensive for the warmer months ahead. 

msh/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)