Declaring that “American leadership is what holds the world together,” President Joe Biden made the case on Thursday night that, in the midst of two very different, unpredictable, and brutal wars, the US has to strengthen its support for Israel and Ukraine.
Acknowledging that “these conflicts can seem far away,” Biden insisted in a rare Oval Office address that they remain “vital for America’s national security,” and said he will ask Congress for billions of dollars in military assistance for both countries.
“History has taught us when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction,” Biden said. “They keep going. And the cost and the threat to America and the world keep rising.”
In spite of political opposition to further financing at home, Biden’s address reflected an expansive view of American commitments abroad. On Friday, he is anticipated to demand $105 billion, of which $60 billion would go towards Ukraine and would primarily be used to restore earlier U.S. weapons stockpiles.
In addition, $10 billion is allocated for humanitarian work, $14 billion is allocated for border management and the battle against fentanyl trafficking between the United States and Mexico, and $7 billion is allocated for the Indo-Pacific area, which includes Taiwan. Before the official release, three people who were aware of the proposal’s specifics insisted on remaining anonymous.
“It’s a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations,” Biden said.
He believes that by uniting these concerns into a single bill, he will be able to build the support of Congress. His statement was made the day following his crucial visit to Israel, when he advocated for increased humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people and expressed support for the nation following Hamas’ attack on October 7.
Biden underlined the death toll that the battle has had on civilians in the Gaza Strip, expressing his “heartbreak at the tragic loss of Palestinian life,” as Israel continues to shell the area and gets ready for a ground invasion.
“Israel and Palestinians equally deserve to live in safety, dignity and peace,” Biden said. He also warned about a rising tide of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the U.S., noting the killing of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy.
“To all you hurting, I want you to know I see you. You belong. And I want to say this to you. You’re all Americans.”
Referencing the building of missiles in Arizona and artillery shells in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas, Biden was cautious to emphasise that the spending will create jobs for U.S. workers as he runs for a second term in a campaign that will probably depend on voters’ feelings about the state of the economy.
Additionally, he made a reference to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of his political idols, stating that the nation is “building the arsenal of democracy and serving the cause of freedom,” “just as in World War II.”
As he works to obtain the funds, Biden encounters numerous difficult obstacles. After Rep. Kevin McCarthy was removed from office more than two weeks ago, the Republican majority in the House has been unable to choose a speaker to take his place, leaving the chamber in disarray.
Furthermore, as Ukraine nears the two-year anniversary in its fight against the Russian invasion, conservative Republicans are opposed funding additional military supplies to the country. Despite a personal plea from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, Biden’s prior request for funding—which included $24 billion to aid with the next few months of fighting—was removed from budget legislation last month.
On the other end of the political spectrum, there will be opposition to Israel receiving military support. Israel has started bombing the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas attack.
Critics have charged Israel of war crimes and indiscriminately killing civilians by severing vital resources including fuel, food, and water.
The international community views Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory as unlawful, and progressive Democrats have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of the state. As a result, bipartisan support for Israel has already begun to erode.
Disagreement is also brewing within Biden’s administration. Josh Paul, a State Department officer in charge of the congressional liaison office for foreign arms sales, resigned due to disagreements with US policy over the delivery of weapons to Israel.
“I cannot work in support of a set of major policy decisions, including rushing more arms to one side of the conflict, that I believe to be short-sighted, destructive, unjust and contradictory to the very values that we publicly espouse,” he wrote in a statement posted to his LinkedIn account.
One of the most prominent platforms available to a president is an Oval Office speech, which provides an opportunity to attempt and grab the nation’s attention during a time of crisis. To broadcast the speech live, the major television networks cut away from their regular programming.
Only once before in his administration has Biden made a statement of this nature, following the passage of bipartisan budget legislation by Congress to prevent the nation’s debt from going into default.
The White House and other senior administration officials, including Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, have quietly briefed key lawmakers in recent days about the contours of the planned supplemental funding request.
The Democratic-controlled Senate intends to act swiftly on Biden’s proposal in the hopes of applying pressure on the Republican-controlled House to settle its leadership dispute and resume passing laws.
On how to proceed, there are differences of opinion within the Senate as well. Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas headed a group of eight Republicans who stated they opposed combining support for Israel and Ukraine in one piece of legislation.
“These are two separate and unrelated conflicts and it would be wrong to leverage support of aid to Israel in an attempt to get additional aid for Ukraine across the finish line,” they wrote in a letter.
North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer said he was fine with the proposal as long as there was also a fresh effort to address border issues. But he said “it’s got to be designed to secure the border, not to facilitate travel through the border.”
Even though there was a pause in the number of migrants entering the country with the implementation of new asylum measures in May, the number of unauthorised crossings exceeded 8,000 on a daily average last month.
During a debate over spending, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who chairs a Senate committee that manages financing for the Department of Homeland Security, expressed caution about any attempt to change border policy.
“How are we going to settle our differences over immigration in the next two weeks?” Murphy said. “This is a supplemental funding bill. The minute you start loading it up with policies, that sounds like a plan to fail.”
A hint at the possibility of new global war can be seen in Biden’s proposal to subsidise the Indo-Pacific region. China may use force to achieve its aim of uniting Taiwan, the self-governing island, with its mainland.
Though U.S. foreign policy has prioritised wars in Europe and the Middle East, Biden sees Asia as the pivotal region in the competition for worldwide sway.
The administration’s national security strategy, released last year, describes China as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge.”