Updated 14 hours ago
US lawmakers are set to vote on a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine as Washington warned Russia was likely bracing for a long conflict with its neighbor.
Defense, humanitarian and economic funding should pass comfortably, with the two sides having reached agreement on the details, and it will likely pass quickly through Congress.
“Time is running out — and we cannot afford to wait,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to fellow Democrats.
“With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the brave people of Ukraine until victory is won.
Congressional leaders yesterday reached a deal to release $6.8 billion more than the $33 billion previously requested by the White House to help the eastern European nation repel an invasion from Moscow.
The financial boost would include an additional $3.4 billion for military and humanitarian assistance on top of the funding requested by the administration.
If the package goes through as planned, US spending to bolster Ukraine’s defenses against Russian invasion and deal with the ensuing humanitarian crisis will reach about $54 billion.
The action comes as a senior US official has warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long war that may not end with Russian victory in the east.
“We believe President Putin is preparing for a protracted conflict in Ukraine in which he still intends to achieve goals beyond Donbass,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a hearing. at the Capitol.
She added that Putin was counting on US and EU resolve to weaken as the conflict continues to cause food shortages and inflation, including soaring energy prices.
Covid Aid Complications
The House of Representatives was expected to vote on the legislation later today, likely followed by the Senate later this week or next week.
Democratic leaders had hoped to tie Ukraine’s money to $10 billion in new funding for Covid-19 tests, therapies and vaccines as the US experiences a new spike in cases as it approaches the million deaths.
But they decided against it because they didn’t want to be drawn into another fight for border control.
Republicans halted the Covid aid package last month, demanding an amendment vote to keep in place Title 42, the pandemic-related provision used to deny asylum claims and allow quick deportation of migrants .
With the policy set to end on May 23, Democrats are reluctant to allow a vote because many of their moderate lawmakers, and those vying for re-election, would likely vote with Republicans.
President Joe Biden said in a statement yesterday that he was ready to accept the decoupling of aid from Ukraine and Covid, with “approximately 10 days” before current funding runs out,
Two senators – Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Richard Blumenthal – today unveiled a resolution calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“If there’s anyone who epitomizes terrorism, totalitarianism and torture, it’s Vladimir Putin,” Blumenthal told a news conference.
The White House has so far resisted calls to add Russia to the list, which currently includes Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria, because Russia already faces more consequences than a designation. of terrorist sponsor would entail.
Graham, however, said the label would make it clear how strongly the United States supports Ukraine in its efforts to repel the Russian invasion.
Director of National Intelligence Haines today said Putin should become more unpredictable and may order martial law in Russia to support his ambitions in Ukraine.
Putin’s goals outweigh Russian military capabilities, and that “probably means the next few months could see us on a more unpredictable and potentially growing trajectory,” Haines told a Senate hearing.
“The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means, including the imposition of martial law, the redirection of industrial production or potentially increasing military options to free up the resources necessary to achieve his goals. goals,” she said.
Haines also said Putin is unlikely to order the use of nuclear weapons unless the Russian homeland faces an “existential threat.”
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Haines said the Russian leader would not end the war with the Donbas campaign and was determined to build a land bridge to Transnistria in Moldova.
“Putin most likely also judges that Russia has a greater capacity and willingness to withstand challenges than its adversaries, and he is likely counting on US and EU resolve to weaken as the food shortages, inflation and energy prices are getting worse,” Haines said.
Ukrainian officials said today the bodies of 44 civilians were found in the rubble of a building destroyed by Russia.
It comes as Ukraine’s vital Black Sea port of Odessa is repeatedly bombarded, including by hypersonic missiles.
The civilians were inside a five-storey building that collapsed in Izyum in the Kharkiv region in March, said Oleh Synehuboy, the head of the Kharkiv regional administration.