President Joe Biden on Wednesday (March 16) announced another $800 million in defense support for Ukraine following a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the U.S. Congress in which he asked for help to “close the sky” against Russian air attacks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24 launched an invasion of Ukraine that has resulted in an estimated 15,000 deaths, more than 1,900 injuries, more than 1,700 buildings destroyed, and at least $120 billion in non-military property damage. More troubling is the United Nations estimates that the conflict so far has resulted in more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees.
In his address to Congress, Zelensky said Putin’s “brutal offensive” was not just against Ukraine but also against “basic human values.” His message included a video of death and destruction in the country, and a written plea to “close the sky over Ukraine.” He thanked the U.S. for its support to date, but requested more help. Zelensky in his closing remarks shifted to speak English.
“Today, the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine, we are fighting for the values of Europe and the world,” he said.
Biden stopped short of considering a no-fly zone in parts of Ukraine or supporting the transfer of fighter aircraft from Poland, but did expand the number of U.S. weapons to be sent to Ukraine. An additional $800 million in war fighting assistance was announced by Biden. The package includes 800 of the popular and effective Stinger anti-air missiles. The 800 is in addition to 600 previously approved.
Also in the package were 2,000 Javelin, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons, and 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems, 100 tactical unmanned aerial systems (drones), 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns, and more than 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds.
The White House noted that the Biden Administration has provided Ukraine about $2 billion in aid, including $1 billion in just the past few weeks.
ARKANSAS CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION RESPONSE
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
“President Zelenskyy is leading his country with courage, conviction and moral clarity that has inspired the world to rally around Ukraine. His address to Congress was moving and another display of his steady, resolute leadership. I appreciated President Zelenskyy’s passionate, sincere plea for international support in pursuit of peace and justice. The United States must continue to provide Ukraine with the military and humanitarian assistance – including further sanctions on the Russian regime and approval of the transfer of Polish fighter jets – needed to defend its sovereignty, human rights and the cause of freedom.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro
“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is an inspirational figure, and he shows great courage facing down the violence of Vladimir Putin’s regime. As I told Ukrainian officials when I was there in December, the United States should, alongside our allies, supply Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend itself. While I oppose inserting American troops into Ukraine, I will continue to work with my colleagues in bipartisan fashion to increase the speed and volume of weapons deliveries that the Ukrainian people need to defend themselves against Putin’s aggression.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers
“President Zelenskyy’s address to Congress today powerfully outlined what is at stake. The Ukrainian people are fighting — not only for their lives and sovereignty — but for the shared order of the free world. His words — which are resoundingly being heard by people and international governments — cannot only be answered with standing ovations. America, NATO, and the entire global community must stand together with Ukraine. This moment has to be met with collective leadership to provide Ukraine with what is needed to defend freedom and their nation. Vladimir Putin is a murderous tyrant and war criminal who wants everything but peace. It’s time for the world to show him the unified consequences of his evil actions.”