A cross-party group of US senators have introduced a bill which seeks to empower President Joe Biden to send more military aid to Ukraine. The plan is to “streamline the President’s current authority to lend the defense articles” to Kiev with the stated goal of protecting Ukrainian civilians from supposed Russian aggression.
The bill, filed on Wednesday, is named “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act,” in an apparent nod to the multibillion-dollar World War II-era program of military assistance the US provided to Allied nations to help them fight against the Axis.
After the United Kingdom, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union was the second-largest recipient of the aid. It allowed Moscow to close some crucial gaps that the Red Army had, like a shortage of trucks and food, and helped it to fight back against invading Nazi forces. The US benefited from the scheme both by damaging a common enemy in Europe and by giving its depressed economy a shot in the arm through government contracts.
Unlike some other US politicians, the senators didn’t outrightly compare Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, but the Russian president apparently loomed large in their considerations. Three of the four sponsors of the bill quoted in their joint statement mentioned him by name, with Roger Wicker accusing Putin of “shameless and illegal aggression” in Ukraine.
Among other things, the bill requires the US president to “categorize any cyberattack on major critical infrastructure originating from within Russia against Ukraine to be treated as an armed attack by Russia.” It is supposed to be in effect “until Russia restores its troops’ presence on the Ukraine border to pre-March 2021 levels.”
The list of sponsors of the bill also includes senators John Cornyn, Ben Cardin, Jeanne Shaheen, Lindsey Graham, and Richard Blumenthal. Three of them have just returned from a trip to Ukraine, where they pledged continued American support to the country.
The US claims Russia may invade Ukraine at any moment, citing movements of troops inside Russia. Several Western countries ramped up supplies of lethal aid to Ukraine amid the security crisis. The Biden administration last month approved an additional $200 million in military assistance.
Russia denies having any aggressive intentions against Ukraine and says its troop movements are strictly for training and defensive goals.