White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine

The White House on Friday denied holding back security assistance from Ukraine hours after a Politico article said that officials had paused a package including lethal assistance worth up to $100 million.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement Friday afternoon calling the idea that the White House has held back security assistance to Ukraine “nonsense.”

Psaki cited a $150 million aid package announced by the Defense Department last week and pointed to President Biden’s public support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression ahead of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

“We have now provided the entire amount appropriated by Congress through the Ukraine security assistance initiative,” Psaki said.

“We have also prepared contingency funds in the event of a further Russian incursion into Ukraine. As President Biden told President Putin directly, we will stand unwavering in support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Politico, citing four anonymous sources, reported on Friday that the White House temporarily froze a military assistance package to Ukraine that was meant as a response to Russian troop buildup on the border with Ukraine earlier this year.

The package was reportedly put together but halted when Russia said it would draw down troops on the border with Ukraine, the report said.

The decision by the Biden administration to halt the package was first reported by The Washington Post earlier this week, but Politico’s report included further details, including saying that the National Security Council was the source of the decision to halt the funds.

The article was met with criticism from several Republicans, some of whom equated it to the Trump administration’s freezing some $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in 2019. Trump was impeached that same year on a charge he abused his power by withholding the assistance to try to force Ukraine to investigate then-candidate Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who voted to acquit Trump of the charge in early 2020, tweeted: “Remember when freezing military aid to Ukraine was an impeachable offense?”

“After this week’s summit, this is an absolute surrender and concession from President Biden to Vladimir Putin and Russia. Joe Biden is shamefully turning his back on our Ukrainian allies,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said.

The U.S. government has provided military assistance to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from continuing Russian aggression after Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. 

At a press conference in Geneva following his meeting with Putin earlier this week, Biden said he raised Ukraine in his conversations with the Russian leader. 

“I communicated the United States’ unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Biden told reporters. “We agreed to pursue diplomacy related to the Minsk Agreement.”

Biden has forcefully pushed back on Russia’s aggressive behavior, including condemning Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks and election interference efforts and pushing for the immediate release of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Biden has tried to draw a contrast with his predecessor, former President Trump, who often spoke warmly of Putin despite rising tensions between the U.S. and Moscow.

Some of Biden’s decisions have been criticized as soft on Russia, however. Republicans and some Democrats have disagreed with the Biden administration’s decision to waive sanctions on the company behind Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

Lexi Lonas contributed.

Tags Donald Trump Elise Stefanik Hillary Clinton Jen Psaki Joe Biden Lauren Boebert Marco Rubio Mike Pompeo Ted Cruz Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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