Pentagon says it must choose between US and Ukraine

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The US Defense Department says it could soon have to sacrifice the country’s own readiness unless Congress approves new aid for Kiev

The Pentagon has urged Congress to approve US President Joe Biden’s supplemental funding package for Ukraine “as quickly as possible,” warning that its coffers are running low and it could soon be forced to sacrifice American combat readiness to continue support.

US lawmakers have been stuck in a deadlock in recent weeks over Biden’s proposed $60 billion Ukraine assistance package. Republicans have blocked the bill, demanding tougher immigration control on the US-Mexico border in exchange for letting it pass.

Speaking at a Pentagon press conference on Thursday, Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder stressed that the president’s supplemental funding is necessary to provide additional support for Ukraine next year.

Ryder estimated that the Pentagon has about $4.4 billion left in Presidential Drawdown Authority funds – which allows Washington to transfer weapons from US stockpiles without congressional approval – and an additional $1 billion in stock replenishment funds.

“Certainly, we do retain the option to spend the $4.4 billion,” Ryder said, but noted that these are “tough choices, because ultimately, at the end of the day, we start to have to make decisions about our own readiness and our ability to continue to support Ukraine in the way they need to be supported on the battlefield.”

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives at the European Council summit, December 14, 2023, Brussels, Belgium. Hungary blocks EU’s $54 billion for Ukraine

Earlier this week, Biden warned that Washington was approaching the end of its ability to provide military aid to Kiev and reiterated his calls on Congress to approve more assistance as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, during a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky on Tuesday, Biden announced an additional military aid package of $200 million for Kiev, to include air defense interceptors, artillery, and ammunition.

On Thursday, the US House and Senate also passed a sweeping military spending bill worth over $886 billion, which includes $300 million in additional aid for Ukraine.

At the same time, unnamed US officials have told the New York Times that Ukraine will now have to fight on “a tighter budget,” and that Kiev has “unrealistic expectations” about US aid and is asking for military aid packages that “do not exist.”

Moscow, in turn, has repeatedly warned that military aid to Ukraine by the US and its allies will only prolong the fighting and increase the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO. Russian officials have also argued that the provision of arms, intelligence-sharing, and training of Ukrainian troops means that Western nations have already become de facto parties to the conflict.

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