Washington, DC – The United States Congress has approved a nearly $40bn military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine, an “unprecedented” sum that US legislators say will help the country defend against.
The bill, previously passed by the House of Representatives, passed in the Senate on Thursday by an overwhelming 86 to 11 vote, sending the measure to President Joe Biden for his signature.
The massive aid package signals a major escalation of US backing for Ukraine after nearly three months of war, analysts told Al Jazeera.
“The scale is unprecedented and speaks – in terms of the US perspective – to the earthquake presented by the current circumstances in Europe,” said Elias Yousif, a research analyst at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington, DC.
The legislation provides $6bn for weapons, training and financial support for Ukraine’s military and $4bn in military financing over the next five months through the end of September, according to a House Appropriations Committee summary of the legislation.
It also includes $9bn to replenish US stocks of weapons being sent to Ukraine and nearly $4bn for expanded US military operations in Europe.
The bill commits $8.76bn in economic support for Ukraine’s government and more than $5bn to address the expandingand rising prices because of the conflict.
Notably, $119m is set aside to fund US agencies to trace and seize financial assets, yachts and other sanctioned property of.
“When you look at the nature and content of the US security assistance, it has been escalatory,” Yousif told Al Jazeera. “It’s gone from from single-man, shoulder-fired weapons to heavy artillery, rotary wing aircraft, more amoured personnel carriers and some very advanced,.”
Combined with previous announcements of US aid to Ukraine, the new funding brings the total of US assistance to more than $50bn since the war started in late February.
That far exceeds the more than $3.8bn inthe US provides to Israel, the largest recipient of American military aid.
“There’s really nothing comparable in recent history,” said William Hartung, director of the arms and security programme at the Center for International Policy, who warned of potential risks.
“The question becomes, how isgoing to react?” Hartung told Al Jazeera. “It’s dangerous ground just how quickly the weapons are moving, the volume of it and the limited questions being asked about what policy this is in service of.”
The Senate vote on Thursday came as BidenSweden’s Prime Minister Magdelena Andersson and Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto at the White House.
Theby both European nations to join the NATO alliance.
Support for Ukraine and NATO expansion runs deep in the US Congress, where the conflict with Russia is seen as a must-win test of the trans-Atlantic partnership the US has built with Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“When I think of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attacks on Ukraine, I can’t help but think that the Baltics would have fallen to Putin and his aggression long ago if he had his way,” Senator Richard Durbin said in a Senate speech on Wednesday.
“What held him back was not just the courage of the people who live there but the fact they had many friends willing to stand behind them, members of the EU and members of the NATO alliance,” said Durbin, whose mother was born in Lithuania.
Some US legislators have raised concerns about the high cost of the legislation. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, had delayed Senate passage of the bill for a week over objections to the cost. “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy,” he said.
The new aid package “is implicitly a statement that this is going to go on for a long time and the United States is going to continue to support Ukraine”, said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, another think tank in the US capital.
The US has sent about 18,000 troops toin NATO since the war began. They are bolstered by additional German, British and Canadian forces.
Buried in the text of the Ukrainian aid package passed by Congress is $600m to help US defence contractors buildfaster and procure long-term supplies of rare earth metals used to make advanced weapons, Cancian noted.
Biden hadin spending for Ukraine over the next five months but Congress bumped the amount up to $40bn.
Overall, the bill is “meant to communicate the degree of US investment in the conflict and the perceptions in a number of Western capitals that Ukraine’s prospects for the conflict have improved”, Yousif said.
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