Pentagon rushes $1bn in weapons to Kyiv after Biden signs aid bill

US president says ‘we need to move fast’ as Ukrainian troops falter on front lines

US president Joe Biden signed a highly anticipated $95 billion (€89 billion) foreign aid bill on Wednesday, triggering a move by the Pentagon to rush $1 billion in new weapons to Kyiv from US stockpiles, including much-needed air defence interceptors and artillery rounds.

The US military had pre-positioned much of the weaponry, which also includes armoured vehicles and anti-tank weapons, so it could be sent quickly to Ukraine’s frontline troops, which have been struggling to fend off Russian attacks since US aid dried up earlier this year.

“I’m making sure the shipments start right away,” Mr Biden said in remarks from the White House. “We need to move fast.”

The package signed by Mr Biden, which includes nearly $61 billion in military aid for Kyiv, marks a major shift for Ukraine policy in Washington, after a small group of isolationist Republicans loyal to former president Donald Trump had blocked the aid for months.


The Trump loyalists had vowed to oust Mike Johnson, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, if he allowed a vote on the bill. But Mr Johnson defied the party’s rebels at the weekend, and their effort to remove him has sputtered.

Mr Biden said the bill’s passage – despite months of delay – was a sign that a political consensus on the US’s national security interests was still in place.

“We don’t walk away from our allies, we stand with them,” Mr Biden said. “We don’t let tyrants win, we oppose them. We don’t merely watch global events unfold, we shape them.”

Mr Biden added: “That’s what it means to be the ‘indispensable nation’. That’s what it means to be the world’s superpower and the world’s leading democracy.”

The new aid package from the Pentagon includes Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 155mm artillery rounds, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, TOW missiles, Javelins and other weapons and ammunition, according to the Pentagon.

“This package will surge munitions, weapons, and equipment forward to support Ukraine’s ability to defend its front lines, protect its cities and counter Russia’s continued attacks,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, said he had discussed the $1 billion package with Mr Biden during a phone call on Monday.

“Over the past few days, we have already been actively working with our American friends on all levels to include the exact types of weapons that our warriors require in this package,” Mr Zelenskiy said.

The rest of the $95 billion in aid is earmarked for Israel and Taiwan. The legislation also includes a provision that requires the Chinese group ByteDance, the parent of TikTok, to divest the popular video app.

TikTok said it would file a legal challenge against what it described as an “unconstitutional law” that amounted to a “ban” that would “devastate 7 million businesses and silence 170 million Americans”.

“We believe the facts and the law are clearly on our side, and we will ultimately prevail. The fact is, we have invested billions of dollars to keep US data safe and our platform free from outside influence and manipulation,” TikTok said.

Mr Biden and his most senior aides have been sounding increasingly dire warnings about the implications of the failure to aid Ukraine, with the lapse in funding so far this year already leading to setbacks on the battlefield.

“Had we failed to step up, Lord only knows what would happen to the cohesion of Nato,” Mr Biden said. He added that if Russian leader Vladimir Putin “triumphs in Ukraine, the next move of Russian forces could very well be a direct attack on a Nato ally” and the US would “have no choice but to come to their aid”.

Mr Zelenskiy said he was “grateful to President Biden, Congress, and all Americans who recognise that we must cut the ground under Putin’s feet rather than obeying him, as this is the only way to truly reduce threats to freedom.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024