This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Laying the groundwork to ask U.S lawmakers for tens of billions of dollars in military assistance for Ukraine and Israel, President Joe Biden linked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip who attacked Israel, saying both were threats to global democracy and security in remarks the Kremlin called “unacceptable.”
Speaking in a rare address from the Oval Office in the White House late on October 19, Biden said he is going to send an urgent funding request to the U.S. Congress, which reportedly will total more than $100 billion over the next year, that will be critical for the two major allies immersed in wars.
“Hamas and Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: They both want to annihilate a neighboring democracy,” Biden said, adding the funds were “a smart investment” that will “pay dividends for American security for generations.”
The Kremlin slammed Biden’s “rhetoric,” saying it “is hardly befitting of responsible national leaders, and such rhetoric is hardly acceptable to us.”
Ahead of his speech, the White House said Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to reiterate Washington’s support for Kyiv in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion, launched in February 2022.
Afterward, Zelenskiy thanked Biden for his “powerful address.”
“Together, we will not allow hatred [to] destroy freedom, and we will not let terrorists destroy democracy. Our common goal is to protect the free way of life for all of our nations,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“The unwavering bipartisan support for Ukraine in the United States is incredibly encouraging for all of our warriors and for our entire nation. America’s investment in Ukraine’s defense will ensure long-term security for all of Europe and the world,” Zelenskiy added.
The request for funds — U.S. media have quoted sources as saying some $60 billion of it will be earmarked for Ukraine and another $14 billion for Israel — comes amid recent warnings from the Biden administration that time is running out to prevent Ukraine, which is struggling with a grueling counteroffensive as its weapon supplies dwindle, from faltering as it seeks to repel Russian troops.
The package would also include funds for Taiwan and U.S. border security.
Congress will have to approve the new funds. At present, however, legislative work in Washington is largely at a standstill because the House of Representatives has no speaker.
It is also uncertain whether such a package would pass, as support for military aid to Ukraine has been uneven in recent months with even some Democrats questioning how much money should go to Kyiv.
Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and chief executive officer of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told RFE/RL that by linking Israeli and Ukrainian aid, Biden has made it difficult for Congress to reject the aid package.
If the aid package is approved, it “undermines once again Vladimir Putin’s calculation that the West is about to collapse when it comes to supporting Ukraine.”
“You understand, if you’re living in Russia, that Ukraine is not going to go away. That they will have continued military capabilities to fight,” he said.
Biden said a failure to support Ukraine and Israel, which appears poised to launch a ground attack on Hamas militants in response to their incursion last week into Israeli territory that left more than 1,400 Israeli citizens dead, will jeopardize U.S. security and its status of a “partner other nations want to work with.”
“To put all that at risk, if we walk away from Ukraine, if we turn our backs on Israel — it’s just not worth it,” Biden, speaking hours after a lightning trip to Israel to show support for Jerusalem, said in his address.
He added that making decisions during times of war “requires asking very hard questions” and “clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you are on will achieve those objectives.”
He noted that since the invasion of Ukraine was launched, Putin and other senior Russian lawmakers have threatened Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, all members of NATO.
Biden said that if Moscow carried out an attack on those countries, or any other member of the military alliance, the United States “will defend every inch of NATO.”
“We’ll have something that we do not seek,” he said. “We do not seek to have American troops fighting in Russia or against Russia.”
“We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win. I refuse to let that happen,” Biden said.