President Biden signs bill reviving WWII lend-lease act for Ukraine

President Joe Biden on Monday resurrected a World War II measure used to boost US allies fighting Nazi Germany, allowing the government to accelerate weapons shipments to Ukraine for its battle against Russia’s invasion.

Biden signed the Lend-lease Act in the Oval Office, saying the US supports Ukrainians’ “fight to defend their country and their democracy against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s brutal war”.

Biden had previously demanded that approval be coupled with support for funding unrelated government anti-Covid programmes. But because Republicans are dragging their heels on Covid-related expenses, Biden said he is ready to drop the Covid funding demands for now and just get the Ukraine money through.

The bill was introduced on January 19 by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who claimed it would be a “game-changer” for Ukraine, and it passed the Senate in a unanimous vote on April 7 and passed the House by a vote of 417-10 April 28, the same day Biden asked Congress for an unprecedented $33 billion in aid for Ukraine, including $20 billion in weaponry.

“We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort,” he said in a statement, urging that Congress get the Ukraine funding bill “to my desk right away”.

The updating of the historic Lend-lease measure was especially resonant coming hours after Putin oversaw a military parade on Red Square in Moscow for the annual commemoration of the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany.

Putin has turned the event into a spectacle justifying his war on pro-Western Ukraine, which he falsely claims is occupied by Nazis.

Back in the 1940s, the US and the communist Soviet Union were briefly allies against their common German enemy. It was then that President Franklin Roosevelt first used the Lend-lease measure, removing bureaucratic obstacles to funnel billions of dollars of equipment to European partners, including the Soviets.

Today, Lend-lease is being used to open the spigots on artillery, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank weapons and other powerful Western weapons used by Ukraine’s military against Russian forces.

Biden emphasised the symbolism of the date, noting he was signing the act the day after the US and Western Europe marked their separate Victory in Europe day May 8th.

He also underlined that Monday itself marked the anniversary of the May 9 Europe Day, which celebrates the founding of the EU in 1950 and the creation of an “economic powerhouse” and “global force for peace”.

Acknowledging the billions of dollars already spent by the US, Biden said “caving to aggression is even more costly”.

In a tweet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the measure, also harking back to the war against Germany.

“Today’s signing of the law on Lend-lease is a historic step. I am convinced that we will win together again. And we will defend democracy in Ukraine. And in Europe. Like 77 years ago,” Zelensky wrote.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly backed legislation on Thursday that will make it easier to export military equipment to Ukraine, reviving the “Lend-Lease Act” that helped defeat Hitler during World War Two.

The House passed the “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022” by 417 to 10, three weeks after it sailed through the Senate with unanimous support. It next goes to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.

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