US Congress revives WWII-era weapons programme for Ukraine

‘Lend-Lease’ legislation passed in House of Representatives will make it easier for US to send weapons directly to Kyiv.

The United States Congress has passed lend-lease legislation that will make it easier to export military equipment to Ukraine, reviving a World War II-era US weapons financing programme.

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly backed the “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022” on Thursday by a vote of 417 to 10, sending the bill to President Joe Biden for his signature. The bill had sailed through the Senate with unanimous support.

The measure revives a World War II-era arrangement that allowed Washington to lend or lease military equipment to Great Britain and other allies at little cost. The new plan will help those affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including Poland and other Eastern European countries.

Two months into the war, members of Congress said they hoped the act would work as it did eight decades ago by allowing US companies to quickly resupply partner nations without having to clear bureaucratic hurdles.

“Today the Ukrainian people are standing on the front lines in the fight for democracy and against tyranny, and the US needs to provide them with every possible measure of humanitarian and military aid,” said Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat.

The US is shipping advanced anti-tank rockets, aerial drone weapons and ammunition to Eastern Europe for distribution to Ukraine [File: Mauricio Campino/US Air Force via AP]

The lend-lease financing arrangement allows the US to provide equipment to Ukraine now, with just a technical requirement to pay at some later date, essentially giving it to the Kyiv government.

“Ukrainian forces have demonstrated unbelievable strength and bravery, and we must again serve as the arsenal of democracy and ensure they have the full range of resources necessary to defend their sovereignty,” Republican Senator John Cornyn, a lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, President Biden asked Congress to approve an additional $33bn in aid for Ukraine, including more than $20bn for weapons, ammunition and other military assistance.

Biden’s request includes $8.5bn in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government and $3bn in humanitarian aid. It is intended to cover the war effort’s needs through September, the end of the US government’s fiscal year.

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said at the White House on Thursday. “The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but caving to aggression is going to be more costly.”

Congress had previously approved $13.6bn in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, including $3bn for the US European Command operations bolstering American troops in the region and $3.5bn to replenish US stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine.

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