WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden is asking Congress to provide more than $37 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, a massive infusion of cash that could help support the nation as Russian forces suffer battlefield losses in their 9-month-old invasion.
The administration's funding request, which comes as lawmakers begin their post-election session, also seeks $9.25 billion in covid-19 funding to prepare for a possible winter surge and help combat the virus nationwide. Government funding expires in mid-December, and the Ukraine and covid aid would be part of the package to fund the government through the end of September 2023.
The request for such a sizable amount of money for Ukraine comes as the GOP is poised to take control of the House following the midterm elections. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is in line to become speaker, has warned that Republicans wouldn't support writing a "blank check" for Ukraine if they capture the majority.
Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said that more than three-fourths of the $40 billion approved by Congress earlier this year for Ukraine has already been disbursed or committed. The Biden administration has asked for a total of $37.7 billion in support.
"Together, with strong, bipartisan support in the Congress, we have provided significant assistance that has been critical to Ukraine's success on the battlefield -- and we cannot let that support run dry, " Young said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The proposed Ukraine assistance includes $21.7 billion for military, intelligence and other defense support, $14.5 billion in humanitarian aid and to help keep the Ukrainian government functioning, $900 million for health care and support services for Ukrainians living in the U.S. and $626 million for nuclear security support to Ukraine and for modernizing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
U.S. aid to Ukraine has already included tens of thousands of missiles and rockets for air defense and anti-armor systems, and more than 84 million rounds of ammunition, as well as drones, tanks, trucks, radars, body armor and other gear.
Ukrainian leaders have begged for more advanced, longer-range weapons, but the U.S. has been careful to not provide systems that would allow Ukrainian forces to strike deep into Russia or hit Moscow.
In recent months the U.S. assistance has centered on air defense systems and a constant stream of ammunition. Those systems have been critical in helping Ukrainian forces mount a massive counteroffensive that has been able to beat back the advances of Russian forces in the south and east and recapture key territory.
The retaking of Kherson, the only provincial capital captured by the Russians, was one of Ukraine's biggest successes in the nearly 9-month-old Russian invasion. It dealt a stunning battlefield loss to Moscow, but large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine remain under Russian control and fighting continues.
Russian airstrikes have been targeting civilian infrastructure, including power grids, and they are causing widespread blackouts around the country. The attacks appear aimed at leaving Ukrainian civilians in the cold and dark as winter approaches.
Biden sought $13.7 billion in emergency funding in September, and signed a bill that authorized roughly $12 billion and kept the government funded.
House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said the new emergency request was "urgent to make sure that we get them everything that we can possibly get into the omnibus so that they have the weapons to continue the momentum moving through the winter."
He expressed concerns that Ukraine funding could be jeopardized with the GOP in charge of the House.
"I would hope that if they do take over, that their leadership will get them in line so that we can preserve democracy and not allow Russia to win," he said.
The coronavirus funding ask is considerably lower than the previous request of $22 billion, which reflects in part the changing nature of the virus and the continued effort to combat it, but also the reluctance among Republicans in Congress to continue to fund covid-19 efforts.
The request includes $2.5 billion for vaccines and therapeutics, $5 billion to support development of new vaccines, $750 million to support research into long covid and $1 billion to combat the virus internationally.
The request also includes $400 million in funding for smallpox vaccines used for monkeypox response, and $350 million for hepatitis C and to help prevent HIV.
A request for additional disaster relief funding should come soon but isn't yet finalized, White House officials said.
DENOUNCEMENT OF INVASION NEAR
Leaders of most of the world's economic powers are nearing approval of a declaration strongly denouncing Russia's invasion that has devastated Ukraine and roiled the global economy. Even China, which has mostly declined to censure Russia until now, and India, which buys weapons from Russia, are providing encouraging words.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pressed fellow leaders for a robust condemnation of Russia's nuclear threats and food embargoes.
More discussion and a possible vote come today at the summit, which has proved unusually eventful, even including a covid-19 scare when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen tested positive and flew home. No other leaders were reported positive.
A draft declaration by leaders of the Group of 20 echoes the United Nations' condemnation of Russia's war on Ukraine, though acknowledging differing views among members.
The careful wording of the statement reflects tensions prevailing at the gathering, which includes leaders from Russia and China, and the challenge facing the U.S. and its allies to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin's government. Some nations want badly to avoid becoming entangled in antagonisms between the biggest powers.
Still, if adopted in its current form, the declaration would be a strong rebuke of the war that has killed thousands, heightened global security tensions and disrupted the world economy. That would be an especially significant step since China and India abstained from condemning Russia's aggression in the March U.N. resolution.
The draft statement seen Tuesday by The Associated Press "deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation" and "demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine." The G-20 statement does note that there are different views on the situation and on sanctions against Russia, saying that the G-20 is not the forum for resolving security issues.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan decried Russia's latest strikes in Ukraine.
"It is not lost on us that, as world leaders meet at the G-20 in Bali to discuss the issues of significant importance to the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, Russia again threatens those lives and destroys Ukraine's critical infrastructure," he said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who led the Russian delegation to Indonesia in place of Putin, denounced the Biden administration push to condemn Moscow.
"All problems are on the Ukrainian side that categorically refuses to hold any talks and comes up with conditions obviously unrealistic and inadequate to this situation," Lavrov said.
Biden skipped an evening gala Tuesday hosted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, to attend to unspecified matters. Biden sent his regrets to Widodo and said he would attend a planned tree planting with fellow G-20 leaders today, according to a White House official. The official, who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted it had been a "full day" for the president but insisted that Biden's absence was not related to covid-19.
At the summit, Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who played a pivotal role this summer in brokering a deal to open up Ukrainian grain exports to ease global food shortages. Biden also met briefly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose cooperation is needed to secure a U.S.-sought price cap on Russian oil to limit the profits Moscow uses to invest in its defense base.
Modi, whose country will assume the G-20 presidency after Indonesia, reiterated his call for "the path of ceasefire and diplomacy" in the war in Ukraine and spoke about efforts by world leaders in World War II to pursue a "path of peace."
Separately, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres held a lengthy meeting Tuesday with Lavrov to discuss the Black Sea Grain Initiative, said U.N. spokesperson Florencia Soto Nino. The deal, which allowed major grain exporter Ukraine to resume exports from ports that had been blocked due to the war, is up for renewal on Saturday.
The U.S. and its allies have responded to Russia's invasion with their own export controls and other sanctions, making it harder for Russia's military to access key technologies and resupply with drones, artillery and other weapons.
The summit is the first for two critical new partners in Biden's effort: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni.
Sunak, who took office last month, has promised to continue his conservative predecessors' steadfast support for Ukraine. He and Biden were set to strategize during their meeting today on new ways to bolster Ukraine's defenses for the long haul.
Meloni has pledged to continue to provide arms and aid for Ukraine, but questions remain over her far-right coalition's commitment to stand up to Russia. She and Biden met on the sidelines of the summit on Tuesday and discussed China, the climate crisis, the impact of Russia's invasion on the global energy market, and their commitment to providing Ukraine support, according to a White House statement.
Information for this article was contributed by Colleen Long, Lolita C. Baldor, Kevin Freking, Seung Min Kim, Zeke Miller, Elaine Kurtenbach, Niniek Karmini, Foster Klug, Adam Schreck, Josh Boak and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press.