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The congressional breakthrough on security assistance to Ukraine and Israel will let the president finally deliver arms to match his words. But it could be only a temporary respite.

April 22, 2024

As originally appeared on The New York Times.

Ukrainian men who might be called up to serve in the military training near Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, last month. The United States is on the cusp of approving its first significant military aid to the war-torn country in 16 months.David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

By Peter Baker

Finally, President Biden had good news to share with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. When Mr. Biden picked up the telephone at his home in Wilmington, Del., to call Mr. Zelensky on Monday, the two rejoiced over the congressional breakthrough that will result in the first significant new U.S. military aid for Ukraine in 16 months.

Mr. Biden used the 30-minute call to “underscore the United States’ lasting commitment to supporting Ukraine” against Russian invaders and promise that arms will start flowing again “quickly,” according to a White House statement. For a grateful Mr. Zelensky, the timing was propitious. A Russian missile attack, he told Mr. Biden, had just destroyed the television tower in Kharkiv.

The House passage of a landmark $95 billion foreign aid package gives Mr. Biden much-needed momentum at a time when his credibility and American leadership have been questioned on the world stage. For months, the president has vowed unstinting support for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without being able to deliver on Capitol Hill. Now, at last, he has planeloads of artillery rounds, air defense missiles and other munitions to back up his words.

“This was a historic win for President Biden and for America’s global leadership,” Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, said in an interview. “This was a moment when both our allies and our adversaries were watching to see if we would deliver for the people of Ukraine in their moment of need.”

Michael Allen, a former national security aide to President George W. Bush, said the aid would counter international worries about the United States for now but added that Mr. Biden should use it to press American allies to take more of a leadership role.

“It’s a win for the U.S. after months of talk about America’s lost its way, beset by populism and isolationism,” he said. “Biden now has new political capital, if he’ll use it, to browbeat more Europeans into more assistance for Ukraine and NATO.”

The sense of relief among officials at the White House has been palpable since the House voted on Saturday by lopsided bipartisan majorities for the package, which includes $61 billion for Ukraine; $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid in conflict zones like Gaza; and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific region. Not only had they finally broken through the aid logjam, but they also held out hopes that they had averted a wider war in the Middle East, at least for now.

The Israeli-American defense of Israel that, with help from European and Arab allies, knocked down nearly all of an Iranian bombardment demonstrated a powerful regional alignment against Tehran. Israel’s decision to defer to Mr. Biden’s pleas for restraint by making only a token reprisal allowed both sides to back off what could have escalated into a full-fledged regional conflagration.

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