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US President Joe Biden delivers a speech during the state dinner hosted by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul on Saturday. Photo: EPA-EFE/Pool

Ukraine war: Biden signs US$40 billion bill for Ukraine assistance during Asia trip

  • US$20 billion will be for military assistance, along with US$8 billion in general economic support, and US$5 billion to address global food shortages
  • Biden signed the measure during a commercial flight to Seoul during his current trip to Asia

President Biden on Saturday signed legislation to support Ukraine with an additional US$40 billion in assistance as the Russian invasion approaches its fourth month.

The legislation, which was passed by Congress with bipartisan support, deepens the US commitment to Ukraine at a time of uncertainty about the war’s future. Ukraine has successfully defended Kyiv, and Russia has refocused its offensive on the country’s east, but American officials warn of the potential for a prolonged conflict.

The funding is intended to support Ukraine through September, and it dwarfs an earlier emergency measure that provided US$13.6 billion.

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The new legislation will provide US$20 billion in military assistance, ensuring a steady stream of advanced weapons that have been used to blunt Russia’s advances. There’s also $8 billion in general economic support, US$5 billion to address global food shortages that could result from the collapse of Ukrainian agriculture and more than US$1 billion to help refugees.

Biden signed the measure under unusual circumstances. Because he is in the middle of a trip to Asia, a US official brought the bill on a commercial flight to Seoul for the president to sign, according to a White House official.

The logistics reflect a sense of urgency around continuing US support for Ukraine, but also the overlapping international challenges facing Biden. Even as he tries to reorient American foreign policy to confront China, he is continuing to direct resources to the largest conflict in Europe since World War II.

Russia claims to have taken full control of Ukraine’s Mariupol

Biden also signed an unrelated measure, one intended to increase access to baby milk formula at a time when supplies remain scarce in the United States. The legislation will allow government benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition programme for Women, Infants, and Children – better known as WIC – to be used to buy more types of infant formula.