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Biden approves a $95 billion military aid package with support for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan

President Joe Biden has approved a $95 billion war aid bill that includes help for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and other allies. The Democratic president finally concluded a lengthy, difficult struggle with Republicans to secure urgently needed aid for Ukraine. However,

By AAMER MADHANI and SEUNG MIN KIM (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has officially accepted on Wednesday a $95 billion military aid package with assistance for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. This includes a provision that would require the sale or banning of the social media platform TikTok in the U.S.

This marks the end of a lengthy and difficult battle with Republicans in Congress for urgently needed aid for Ukraine.

“We rose to the occasion, we united, and we completed the task,” Biden stated at a White House event to announce the approval. “Now we need to act swiftly, and we will.”

But the Biden administration's efforts to assist Ukraine against Russia's invasion have suffered significant damage during the funding dispute that began in August, when the Democratic president first requested emergency funds for Ukraine. Despite receiving a new set of weapons and ammunition, Ukraine is unlikely to immediately recover after enduring months of setbacks.

Biden immediately authorized the delivery of $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine and stated that the shipment would start arriving in the “next few hours” — the first part of about $61 billion designated for Ukraine. The package includes air defense capabilities, artillery rounds, armored vehicles, and other weapons to strengthen Ukrainian forces, whose morale has suffered as Russian President Vladimir Putin has secured multiple victories.

However, it remains uncertain whether Ukraine — after enduring heavy losses in Eastern Ukraine and significant damage to its infrastructure — can make enough progress to maintain American political support before utilizing the latest influx of funds.

“The situation is not favorable for Ukraine in the Donbas, and certainly not in other parts of the country,” said White House national security spokesman John Kirby, referring to the eastern industrial heartland where Ukraine has faced setbacks. “Mr. Putin believes he can buy time. So we need to try to make up some of that time.”

Embedded in the aid package is a requirement that gives TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, nine months to sell the platform or face a nationwide ban in the United States. The president can offer a one-time extension of 90 days, extending the sale deadline to one year, if he confirms that there is a plan for divestiture and “significant progress” toward its execution.

The administration and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have raised concerns about the social media platform as a growing national security issue.

TikTok stated that it will mount a legal challenge against what it considers an “unconstitutional” action by Congress.

“We are confident that the facts and the law are clearly in our favor, and we will ultimately succeed,” the company stated in a release.

Biden emphasized that the bill also includes a significant increase of around $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict continues.

Biden asserted that Israel must guarantee that the humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the bill reaches Gaza “without delay.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson postponed a vote on the additional aid package for a long time because some members of his party's extreme right wing, like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Thomas Massie, threatened to take action against him if he allowed a vote to send more help to Ukraine. Those threats are still there. move to oust him if he allowed a vote to send more assistance to Ukraine. Those threats persist.

Former President Donald Trump, the likely 2024 GOP presidential nominee, has expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that European allies have not done enough for Ukraine. While he didn't fully support the extra funding package, his tone has changed recently, recognizing the importance of Ukraine's survival for the United States.

Many European leaders have been worried for a long time that a second Trump presidency would lead to reduced U.S. support for Ukraine and the NATO military alliance. In February, Trump's campaign speech heightened European anxiety when he warned that he would encourage Russia to do whatever they want to countries that don't meet defense spending targets if he returns to the White House. NATO allies that he “would encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want”

It was a crucial moment in the debate over Ukraine spending. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg quickly called out Trump for putting “American and European soldiers at increased risk.” Biden later referred to Trump’s comments as “dangerous” and “un-American” and accused Trump of playing into Putin’s hands.

But in reality, the effort at the White House to secure more funding for Ukraine began many months before.

Biden, after a packed trip to Tel Aviv following an unexpected attack by Hamas militants on Israel, made a rare prime time address the next day to advocate for the extra funding.

At that time, the House was in disarray because the Republican majority had been unable to select a speaker to replace Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who had been removed over two weeks prior. McCarthy faced consequences from the GOP's far right after he previously agreed to federal spending levels that many in his right flank disagreed with and wanted reversed.

Far-right Republicans have vehemently opposed providing more money for Ukraine, with no end in sight for the war. In August, Biden asked for over $20 billion to continue providing aid to Ukraine, but the money was removed from a necessary spending bill even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy went to Washington to make a personal appeal for ongoing U.S. support.

By late October, Republicans finally settled on Johnson, a relatively unknown Louisiana Republican whose stance on Ukraine was unclear, to become the next speaker. During his congratulatory call with Johnson, Biden encouraged him to quickly pass Ukraine aid and initiated a months-long, mostly behind-the-scenes effort to bring the matter to a vote.

In private discussions with Johnson, Biden and White House officials emphasized the implications for Europe if Ukraine were to fall to Russia. Five days after Johnson officially became speaker, national security adviser Jake Sullivan explained the administration's Ukraine strategy to him and assured him that measures were in place in Ukraine to track where the aid was going — an attempt to address a common concern from conservatives.

Under orders from Biden, White House officials also refrained from directly criticizing Johnson for the delayed aid.

Throughout the negotiations, White House officials found Johnson to be straightforward and honest. Earlier in his term, Biden successfully found common ground with Republicans to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure agreement, a law to enhance the U.S. semiconductor industry, and an expansion of federal health care services for veterans who were exposed to toxic smoke from burn pits. He was aware of ample Republican support for additional Ukraine funding.

Biden commended Johnson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stating that ultimately they “stepped up and did the right thing.”

“This moment will be remembered in history,” Biden stated. “Despite all the talk about how dysfunctional things are in Washington, if you look back over the past three years, we’ve repeatedly come together on critical issues.”

During the negotiations, Biden encouraged his aides to “keep talking, keep working,” at challenging moments, as per the official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

So they did. During a daily meeting led by White House chief of staff Jeff Zients, the president’s top aides — seated around a large oval table in Zients’ office — would brainstorm potential ways to better present the case for Ukraine’s dire situation in the absence of aid.

Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president, and legislative affairs director Shuwanza Goff maintained regular contact with Johnson. Goff and Johnson’s senior staff also had frequent conversations as a deal came into focus.

The White House also aimed to accommodate Johnson and his various requests. For example, at the speaker’s request, administration officials briefed Reps. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Ralph Norman, R-S.C., two conservatives who were persistent opponents of Johnson.

Throughout, senior Biden officials regularly updated McConnell as well as key Republican committee leaders, including Reps. Michael McCaul and Mike Turner.

Publicly, the administration pursued a strategy of downplaying intelligence that showed Russia’s efforts to strengthen its connections with U.S. adversaries China, North Korea and Iran to bolster Moscow’s defense industrial complex and bypass U.S. and European sanctions.

For instance, this month U.S. officials presented intelligence findings that revealed China has increased sales to Russia of machine tools, microelectronics, and other technology that Moscow is then using to manufacture missiles, tanks, aircraft, and other weaponry. Earlier, the White House publicized intelligence indicating that Russia has obtained ballistic missiles from North Korea and has acquired attack drones from Iran.

The $61 billion can assist in providing initial care for Ukrainian forces, but Kyiv will require much more for a protracted battle, according to military experts.

Achievable targets for the coming months for Ukraine — and its allies — involve averting the loss of major cities, slowing Russia’s advance, and providing additional weaponry to Kyiv that could enable them to launch an offensive in 2025, stated Bradley Bowman, an analyst of defense strategy and policy at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington.

“In our fast-paced culture, we often desire immediate results,” Bowman stated. “Sometimes things are simply difficult and you can’t achieve immediate results. I believe Ukrainian success is not certain, but Russian success is if we cease supporting Ukraine.”

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