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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Yang Tian and agencies

House approves $61bn aid for Ukraine – what we know so far, and what happens next

US speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, with reporters after the House approved $95bn in foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
US speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, with reporters after the House approved $95bn in foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The US House of Representatives has approved $95bn in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and other US allies in a rare Saturday session as Democrats and Republicans banded together after months of hard-right resistance over renewed American support for repelling Russia’s invasion.

With an overwhelming vote, the $61bn in aid for Ukraine passed in a matter of minutes, a strong showing as American lawmakers race to deliver a fresh round of US support to the war-torn ally. Many Democrats cheered on the House floor and waved Ukraine flags.

The speaker, Mike Johnson, who helped marshall the package to passage, said after the vote: “We did our work here, and I think history will judge it well.”

What does this new aid package include?

The $95bn in total funding includes roughly $61bn for Ukraine with some of the funding going towards replenishing American munitions; $26bn for Israel; $8bn for US allies in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan; and $9bn in humanitarian assistance for civilians in war zones, such as Haiti, Sudan and Gaza, though the package also includes a ban until March 2025 on direct US funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), an agency providing key assistance to Gaza.

In the Ukraine bill, of the $60.7bn, a total of about $23bn would be used by the US to replenish its military stockpiles, opening the door to future US military transfers to Ukraine. Another $14bn would go to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, in which the Pentagon buys advanced new weapon systems for the Ukrainian military directly from US defence contractors.

There is also more than $11bn to fund current US military operations in the region, enhancing the capabilities of the Ukrainian military and fostering intelligence collaboration between Kyiv and Washington; and about $8bn in non-military assistance, such as helping Ukraine’s government continue basic operations, including the payment of salaries and pensions.

The package includes several Republican priorities that Democrats endorsed, or at least were willing to accept. Those include proposals that allow the US to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine; impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organisations that traffic fentanyl; and legislation to require the China-based owner of the popular video app TikTok to sell its stake within a year or face a ban in the US.

What happens next?

Passage through the House has cleared away the biggest hurdle to Joe Biden’s funding request, first made in October as Ukraine’s military supplies began to run low.

The whole package will now go to the Senate, which could pass it as soon as Tuesday. It is then passed to Biden, the US president, who has promised to sign it immediately.

“I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs,” the president said.

Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, announced it would begin procedural votes on the package Tuesday, saying: “Our allies across the world have been waiting for this moment.”

The Senate Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, as he prepared to overcome objections from his right flank next week, said: “The task before us is urgent. It is once again the Senate’s turn to make history.”

What has been the reaction from Ukraine?

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, said he was “grateful” to both parties in the House and “personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track”.

“Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it. The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger … Thank you, America!”

Sergii Marchenko, the Ukrainian finance minister, pointed to the legislation’s provision for budget support.

“This is the extraordinary support we need to maintain financial stability and prevail,” he wrote on X.

What has been the reaction from other countries?

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Sunday it will discuss with the US how to use funding for the island.

The ministry said it “will coordinate the relevant budget uses with the United States through existing exchange mechanisms, and work hard to strengthen combat readiness capabilities to ensure national security and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.

The defence ministry also expressed thanks to the US House for passing the package on Saturday, saying it demonstrated the “rock solid” US support for Taiwan.

Taiwan has since 2022 complained of delays in US weapon deliveries, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as manufacturers focused on supplying Ukraine.

How has Russia responded?

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the approval of security aid to Ukraine would lead to more damage and deaths in the conflict there.

The decision “will make the United States of America richer, further ruin Ukraine and result in the deaths of even more Ukrainians, the fault of the Kyiv regime”, Peskov said, according to Russian news agencies.

Peskov also said that provisions in the legislation allowing the US to confiscate seized Russian assets and transfer them to Ukraine to fund reconstruction would tarnish the image of the US, and Russia would enact retaliatory measures.

The former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said the approval of US aid for Ukraine was expected and grounded in “Russophobia”.

“We will, of course, be victorious regardless of the blood soaked $61 billion, which will mostly be swallowed up by their insatiable military industrial complex,” wrote Medvedev, who acts as deputy chairman of the security council.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said the approval of aid in the legislation to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan would “deepen crises throughout the world”.

“Military assistance to the Kyiv regime is direct sponsorship of terrorist activity,” Zakharova wrote on Telegram. “To Taiwan, it is interference in China’s internal affairs. To Israel, it is a road straight to escalation and an unprecedented rise in tension in the region.”

Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, and launched its similarly unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022; while Ukraine, an independent and sovereign country, has acted in self-defence.

How will the US get weapons swiftly to Ukraine?

The Pentagon could get weapons moving to Ukraine within days once the military aid package clears the Senate and Biden signs it into law. It has a network of storage sites in the US and Europe that already hold the ammunition and air defence components that Kyiv desperately needs.

According to a US military official, the US would be able to send certain munitions “almost immediately” to Ukraine. Among the weapons that could go very quickly are the 155 mm rounds and other artillery, along with some air defence munitions.

“We would like very much to be able to rush the security assistance in the volumes we think they need to be able to be successful,” said Pentagon press secretary Maj Gen Pat Ryder.

“We have a very robust logistics network that enables us to move material very quickly,” Ryder told reporters this past week. “We can move within days.”

The Pentagon has had supplies ready to go for months but hasn’t moved them because it is out of money. It has already spent all of the funding Congress had previously provided to support Ukraine, sending more than $44bn worth of weapons, maintenance, training and spare parts since Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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