Joe Biden Gifts Ukraine Another $500 Million
The left-wing administration of President Joe Biden will give Ukraine another $500 million in military aid, Biden announced on Monday, standing alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.
Biden made a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital on Monday after having scheduled a visit to Poland from February 20 to 22. Zelensky had been asking Biden to visit publicly for over a year, first urging him to step into Kyiv in the day before Russia announced a “special operation” in February 2022 that Biden insisted for weeks was imminent, tanking the Ukrainian economy.
Biden reportedly tipped off the Russian government before entering Ukraine, the Russian news agency Tass reported on Monday.
The $500 million package is worth about the equivalent of the money Zelensky told reporters Ukraine lost in foreign investment in January 2022 to Biden-fueled “panic.”
The rocky relationship between Zelensky and Biden has thawed significantly in the past year; American taxpayers have committed upwards of $32 billion to funding Ukraine’s military between 2014 and early February 2023, without counting the announced funds on Monday.
“Together [with allies], we’ve committed nearly 700 tanks, and thousands of armoured vehicles, 1,000 artillery systems, more than 2 million rounds of artillery ammunition, more than 50 advanced launch rocket systems, anti-ship and air defense systems, all to defend Ukraine,” Biden said at a joint press conference on Monday with Zelensky in Ukraine, according to the state outlet Ukrinform. “And that doesn’t count the other half a billion dollars that we are announcing today and tomorrow.”
Ukrinform, citing Biden, described the contents in the $500 million package as “in particular, more missiles for HIMARS systems, Javelin anti-tank missile systems, more military equipment and weapons.”
Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, colonizing its Crimean peninsula during Biden’s two tenures as vice president. Washington did little in response to that aggression at the time, allowing Russian leader Vladimir Putin to fuel an ongoing war in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine during President Donald Trump’s time in office. Putin did not attempt to annex parts of Ukraine again, however, until the “special operation” that began a year ago took hold. In September, Putin announced that Russia had “annexed” the entire Donbass, Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
Zelensky has been president of Ukraine since May 2019; while initially highly popular, his approval ratings had dropped nationwide in the face of his administration’s poor handling of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic in the months prior to the invasion, but he regained support in light of the war.
In his press conference with Biden, Zelensky insisted that his government is defining victory in the war against Russia as the restoration of all seized territories to Ukraine, presumably including Crimea.
“This unprovoked and criminal Russian war against Ukraine, the whole of Europe and the democratic world must end with the cleansing of the entire Ukrainian land from Russian occupation,” Zelensky said, according to Ukrinform, “and firm long-term security guarantees for our state, as well as for all of Europe and the whole world.”
Ukrinform did not elaborate on how Zelensky defined “security guarantees.” His administration has been campaigning for entry into the European Union and NATO, however, demands that Ukrainians have made since the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 that Russia has insisted fueled its ongoing aggression against the country.
The White House published a statement from Biden as he arrived in Kyiv, describing an “unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity” on the part of his administration. In addition to hundreds of millions in military funding for Ukraine, Biden said he would soon “announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine.”
“Over the last year, the United States has built a coalition of nations from the Atlantic to the Pacific to help defend Ukraine with unprecedented military, economic, and humanitarian support – and that support will endure,” he predicted.
On his social media profiles, Zelensky applauded Biden for making the “timely” visit he had been demanding for over a year.
“I am thankful to the U.S. for standing with Ukraine and for our strong partnership,” Zelensky wrote. “We are determined to work together to ensure Ukraine’s victory.”
Historic. Timely. Brave. I welcomed @POTUS in Kyiv as Russian full-scale aggression approaches its one-year mark. I am thankful to the U.S. for standing with Ukraine and for our strong partnership. We are determined to work together to ensure Ukraine’s victory. pic.twitter.com/EPtH3fLWWD
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 20, 2023
Zelensky, who enjoyed a warm relationship with Trump, has been requesting a Biden visit since the week before the Russian “special operation” began last year.
“Right now, the people’s biggest enemy is panic in our country. And all this information is only provoking panic and not helping us,” Zelensky said in mid-February 2022, complaining of persistent nervous predictions from Biden that Ukraine would “imminently” descend into a state of nationwide war.
“I mentioned this to President Biden … we need to stabilize the economy of our country because of those signals which say that tomorrow there will be war,” Zelensky explained in an extended rant at the time, “because these signals were sent by even leaders of the respected countries, sometimes they are not even using diplomatic language! They are saying, ‘Tomorrow is the war.’”
“We have the record-breaking GDP in 2021, record-breaking number. We have the growth in a short period of time,” Zelensky continued, “but after, I think, the beginning of this informational coverage, after this change in the informational coverage, 12 and a half billion [Ukrainian hryvnia] worth of investments were taken out of Ukraine.”
To soothe the panic, Zelensky suggested Biden visit Kyiv.
“I am convinced that your arrival in Kyiv in the coming days, which are crucial for stabilizing the situation, will be a powerful signal and contribute to de-escalation,” Zelensky reportedly told Biden, in a statement published by the former’s presidential office.
By April, two months into the war, Zelensky again urged Biden to visit in a show of solidarity. Zelensky told CNN personality Jake Tapper that month that he hoped Biden would visit and he thought he would, “but it’s his decision, of course, and about the safety situation, it depends. But I think he’s the leader of the United States, and that’s why he should come here to see.”
In July, Zelensky suggested visiting Ukraine was not a decision Biden had the power to make. Telling the New York Post he was “hopeful” Biden would visit, Zelensky added, “I don’t know, that is his choice. I mean, not even his choice, it’s his security, it’s their choice.”
Ultimately, Zelensky made it to Washington before Biden made it to Kyiv. Zelensky made a surprise one-day visit to Washington in December, addressing Congress and demanding more weapons paid for by America.
Biden visited Ukraine six times while serving as vice president, but this week marks his first time in the country as president. Biden’s family has deep ties to the country through his son, Hunter, who served on the board of the gas firm Burisma from April 2014 to April 2019, departing the month before Zelensky took office and prior to his father’s presidential victory. Hunter Biden, a visual artist, reportedly made $83,000 a month serving on the board of Burisma through his father’s vice presidency but lost about half his salary when his father’s term ended. It is unclear publicly exactly the younger Biden’s role in the company was.
A U.S. government investigation has accused Burisma of bribing local prosecutors and otherwise engaging in corrupt activities during the years Hunter Biden was involved with the corporation.