Long-Awaited Aid to Ukraine Poised to Pass US Congress, Weapons Coming Soon

 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives as the Senate prepares to advance the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan passed by the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives as the Senate prepares to advance the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan passed by the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
TT

Long-Awaited Aid to Ukraine Poised to Pass US Congress, Weapons Coming Soon

 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives as the Senate prepares to advance the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan passed by the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives as the Senate prepares to advance the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan passed by the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)

Billions of dollars in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan should easily win approval in the US Senate this week, after the House of Representatives abruptly ended a months-long stalemate and approved the assistance in a rare Saturday session.

The Senate on Tuesday will take up the package of four bills passed by the House, one providing $61 billion for Ukraine, a second with $26 billion for Israel, a third with $8.12 billion "to counter communist China" in the Indo-Pacific and a fourth that includes a potential ban on the social media app TikTok, measures for the transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine and new sanctions on Iran.

The package could pass the Democratic-led Senate as soon as late Tuesday. Democratic President Joe Biden has promised to sign it quickly into law.

Two US officials told Reuters the administration was already preparing a $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine, the first to be sourced from the bill.

That would clear the way for shipments of military assistance to Ukraine within days, boosting morale for its troops fighting Russian invaders. The influx of weapons should improve Kyiv's chances of averting a major Russian breakthrough in the east, analysts said, although it would have been more helpful if the aid had come closer to when Biden requested it last year.

"I ask my colleagues to join together to pass the supplemental today as expeditiously as possible, send our friends abroad the aid they have long been waiting for," Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech as the Senate opened.

As he urged support, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said failing to support allies emboldened rivals like China and Russia, and denounced isolationism. "Today, the Senate sits for a test on behalf of the entire nation. It’s a test of American resolve, our readiness, and our willingness to lead," he said.

It was not immediately clear how the money for Israel would affect the conflict in Gaza - Israel already receives billions of dollars in security assistance from the United States. The package includes humanitarian assistance, which supporters hope will help Palestinians in Gaza.

Humanitarian concerns

The Israel bill passed the House by an overwhelming 366 to 58 - with 21 Republicans and 37 Democrats opposed. The Republican "no" votes came from hardliners who generally oppose foreign aid. Democrats who voted no said they wanted more done to ease the devastating humanitarian toll of Israel's campaign in Gaza as it retaliates for the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas fighters that killed 1,200 people and resulted in around 250 being taken hostage.

The Israeli military assault that followed those attacks has killed more than 34,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza health authorities.

The Senate passed security aid for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific more than two months ago, with support of 70% of the 100-member chamber, both Republicans and Democrats.

The White House said Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a phone call on Monday that his administration would provide new security assistance "to meet Ukraine's urgent battlefield and air defense needs" as soon as he signs the supplemental spending bills into law.

The legislation's progress has been closely watched by industry, with US defense firms up for major contracts to supply equipment for Ukraine and other US partners. Backers of the foreign assistance stress that approving the Ukraine bill would create many American jobs.

Experts expect the supplemental spending to boost the order backlog of RTX along with other major companies that receive government contracts, such as Lockheed Martin , General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

Congressional aides said the funding for Ukraine includes $8 billion in Presidential Drawdown Authority, which lets Biden send equipment to Ukraine from U.S. stocks.

The House passed the Ukraine funding by 311-112, with all 112 "no" votes coming from Republicans, many of whom were bitterly opposed to providing further assistance to Kyiv. Only 101 Republicans voted for it, forcing Speaker Mike Johnson to rely on Democratic support and prompting calls for his ouster as House leader.

However, the House left Washington for a week-long recess, without triggering a vote to remove Johnson.



Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
TT

Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)

China's military drills last week were more about propaganda and intimidation than starting a war, but Chinese forces did show how they could react quickly, Taiwan's top security official said on Wednesday.
China said it carried out the two days of war games starting Thursday as "punishment" for new President Lai Ching-te's inauguration speech last week, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were "not subordinate to each other", which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries, Reuters said.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Lai rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but been rebuffed.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said the aim of China's drills was not to go to war.
"The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate," he said.
The drills were meant to show an external and domestic audience that Beijing "has absolute control over the situation in the Taiwan Strait", Tsai added.
Speaking in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated its list of complaints about Lai being a dangerous supporter of Taiwan's formal independence, and threatened continued Chinese military activity.
The drills were a "just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity", she said.
"As Taiwan's provocations for independence continue, the People's Liberation Army's actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity continue."
The government in Taipei says Taiwan is already an independent country, the Republic of China. The Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists who set up the People's Republic of China.
China says any decisions on Taiwan's future are for all of China's 1.4 billion people to make, not only Taiwan's 23 million, and has offered a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" autonomy model, though that has almost no public support on the island, according to opinion polls.
"Different systems are not an obstacle to reunification, let alone an excuse for separation," Zhu said.
China has never explained how it would integrate Taiwan's vibrant democracy and direct election of its leaders into any plan to govern the island.
China has in the past four years sent its military to areas around Taiwan on an almost daily basis, as it seeks to exert pressure on the island.
But China also appeared to be trying to keep the scope of these drills contained, Tsai's bureau said in a written report to lawmakers, noting there was no declaration of no-fly or no-sail zones and the exercises lasted only two days.
"The intention was to avoid the situation escalating and international intervention, but in the future it is feared (China) will continue its compound coercion against us, gradually changing the Taiwan Strait's status quo," it said.
Tsai added that Chinese forces mobilized almost as soon as China announced the drills early on Thursday.
"The speed was extremely fast, demonstrating rapid mobilization capabilities," he said.