The defense package meant to fend off the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine includes 800 anti-aircraft systems and 9,000 anti-armor systems, Biden said. It also includes 7,000 small arms and 20 million rounds of ammunition meant to arm Ukrainians “including the brave women and men who are defending their cities as civilians,” said Biden.
“I want to be honest, this could be a long and difficult battle, but American people will be steadfast in our support and the people of Ukraine in the face of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations,” said Biden, citing reports of Russian attacks on hospitals and other civilian sites.
The announcement came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a virtual address to Congress requested that the United States and NATO arm Ukraine with fighter jets and enforce a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace—two requests Biden and other top officials said are nonstarters that would draw the United States into a war with Russia.
Zelensky told U.S. lawmakers “we need you right now,” invoking the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor while requesting S-300 surface-to-air missile systems and Polish MiG-29 fighter jets.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Zelensky addressed Biden directly, saying, “You are the leader of your grand nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”
This request came after Zelensky conceded Tuesday that his country has to accept that it will not become a member of the NATO military alliance, a critical concern that Putin used to justify the invasion that began on Feb. 24.
The United States has provided military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, throughout the weeks-long conflict, including $13.6 billion recently approved by Congress as part of its spending bill.
The United States and its allies have responded to Russia’s attack on Ukraine by imposing sanctions on Russian financial systems and individuals in Putin’s inner circle. The United States has also banned the import of Russian oil, along with other Group of Seven (G-7) nations, and moved to end Russia’s normal trade relation status, making it more difficult for Russia to do business with the West.
Putin said on Wednesday that the West is trying to economically cripple Russia.
“Behind the hypocritical talk and today’s actions of the so-called collective West are hostile geopolitical goals. They just don’t want a strong and sovereign Russia,” Putin said, according to state-run media.
The Russian leader, speaking in a televised meeting in Moscow, said that other countries are trying to “cancel” with a “blitzkrieg of sanctions.”
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke Wednesday with General Nikolay Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council. Sullivan reiterated the U.S. opposition to the war and told Patrushev that if Russia is “serious about diplomacy then Moscow should stop attacking Ukrainian cities and towns,” according to a statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne. Sullivan also warned about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.
The White House announced plans earlier this week for Biden to attend a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, on March 24 “to discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine.” Biden will also attend a European Council Summit.